Remains of the Day

Despite our best efforts to camouflage our windows, a few birds continue to hit the glass. Reflections of the surrounding trees make it look like just part of the forest.

If the birds are lucky it’s only a glancing blow. Others succumb to the impact and die — which is what happened to this ruffed grouse.

We placed her body a few feet into the bush. Within hours all that remained was the feathers.

Who benefitted from her untimely end? Foxes live nearby so perhaps their hunt for a meal was easier today.

Ruffed grouse feathers

Ruffed grouse feathers

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus



1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine; or,

2. a foolish or useless act or thing.

It started with a thump on the living room window. I knew the sound. Not good. Something had flown into the glass.

I grabbed the camera and went to look. I didn’t see anything at first, then suddenly a male grouse rounded the corner of the deck. He was in full display — his gorgeous blue-black ruff puffed up around his head, his eye combs bright red and his tail feathers fanned out like a peacock. A great idea in the summer when you’re hoping to attract a female’s eye. But in November? In. The. Snow?

He strutted across the deck and onto the ground beneath the window.

Male ruffed grouse

It must have been a female who hit the window. Perhaps to escape his unwanted attention. That’s when I saw the first feathers. I assumed she’s survived the impact as he kept moving along, his eye firmly on his target.

Male ruffed grouse

I caught sight of her for a brief moment, then she disappeared around the corner of the house. He followed …

Male ruffed grouse

… trailing her to the front of the house.

Male and female ruffed grouse

About then one of the four females sitting in the saskatoon bush flew low over their heads and into a spruce tree. The male, seeing fresh opportunity, forgot about the first female and went to check out the new prospect. Seeing her chance the first female departed the scene.

The new bird kept to her branch. She was not interested. He stayed below, Romeo to her Juliet.

Male and female ruffed grouse

As for the injured female? I saw her later beyond the end of the garden. I’m not sure how seriously she was hurt. Later I checked where she had struck the glass and found dozens of feathers.

Female ruffed grouse

Reflections confuse the birds. Although we’ve done what we can to bird-proof our windows, two female grouse died this summer when they flew into them. Thinking they have an escape route they hit hard glass instead.

Hopefully this one will survive.

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Hip, Hip, Hooray

Rose hip: The fruit of a rose.

Rose hips figure high on the foods-I-like-to-eat for ruffed grouse. They’re packed with vitamin C, fibre and lots of essential minerals.

About 6 grouse visit our yard so rose hips are becoming scarce. They picked the low-hanging ones early in the fall. Later they climbed into the rose bushes to eat them. But there are still some left.

The other day I was taking shots of grouse through the kitchen window. I watched as one female spotted a small hip dangling above her. Could she get it?

Seems so. 🙂

Ruffed grouse

Ruffed grouse  Bonasa umbellus

Garden Party

Ruffed grouse paid us a visit on this snowy afternoon.

First one arrived …

Ruffed grouse

Not finding much of interest in the snow-dusted grass, the saskatoon bush seemed a better prospect.

Ruffed grouse

Then a second showed up …

(What were they eating? Chickadees cleaned off the berries a long time ago).

Ruffed grouse

And finally a third …

Ruffed grouse

They stayed for several minutes, almost hidden among the branches, pecking, looking, pecking some more. Then the party was over. One by one they hopped down and wandered away.

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Cock of the Walk

I spotted a female grouse ambling through the woods the other day. Not far away I heard a male drumming his come-hither-darling call to any females in the neighbourhood.

I decided to follow her. Creeping over dried leaves, twigs and branches is noisy business but the crunching and crackling didn’t seem to bother her. I wondered if she was the one who has been frequenting our yard.

Just then the drummer caught sight of her and he trotted after her in pursuit, his tail fanned out like a peacock, his gorgeous ruff fluffed to its fullest. This handsome lad had love on his mind.

She flew into a tree. He stopped and turned to give her the benefit of what he had to offer.

Showing off

Meanwhile I stumbled around for a better angle, sure that one or the other would leave. Nope. His feet were definitely planted on the road to love and she was quite happy several feet up the tree.

A come-hither look

After several minutes of his look-into-my-eyes-my-darling routine, she had enough. She leapt off the branch and flew further into the woods.

Undeterred he followed.

Walking grouse

The three of us were heading into more deadfall — the two with feathers were more adept than I at maneuvering the jumble of logs and limbs. I heard a flap of wings ahead and a blur through the trees. She was gone. Again.

This time when a branch snapped beneath my feet, the male turned to look. What expression did I read there? Fickle female? Better luck next time? How could she refuse my offer?

No luck this time

I discretely retreated.

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Grouse in the Rough

Winter has lingered well past its best-before date. Snow still drapes across fallen logs and clumps of moss in the woods. In our yard, on the other hand, green shoots are popping up, offering a fresh salad for the picking. A few insects and spiders add extra protein.

Which probably explains why a female ruffed grouse has moved from there into our yard. In fact she has become quite tolerant of me and the camera.

Although sometimes described as a lunchbox on legs — presumably because they make an easy meal for predators — grouse are surprisingly good at blending into their surroundings

Female ruffed grouse
Mottled feathers provide good camouflage

Sudden movement, a loud sound, in fact anything “unusual” in their world causes grouse to freeze. That’s fine if you’re among trees or bushes where you can disappear into the background. Not so good if you’re in the middle of the road and rubber is heading your way.

Perhaps she’ll nest nearby

While I was photographing this grouse today I could hear a male drumming in the woods, his way of attracting a mate. The female, however, seemed oblivious to his come-hither call. In fact, she lay down beneath the saskatoon bush and took a nap. Maybe she’s playing hard to get. 🙂

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Ruffed Grouse

New shoots coming through the snow brought this female ruffed grouse out of the woods and into the yard. She didn’t seem bothered at all as the camera and I stepped closer.

I’ve heard the male drumming in the woods over the past week or so which means mating season will soon be underway.

The male, when in full display, fans his large tail (somewhat like a small peacock) and puffs up the ruff around his neck — all designed to impress the local ladies.

I’ve seen many grouse over the years but this one surprised me. On the back of her neck I spotted several iridescent blue feathers. Gorgeous. Although I googled several sites I couldn’t find any reference to blue feathers. Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would say.

Blue feathers on neckCheck out the dots on her back — like little white hearts. Maybe love is in the air. 🙂


Ruffed grouse   Borasa umbellus

Ruff Work

Who’s feet be these?

Two ruffed grouse wandered along our driveway — a little pigeon-toed —  leaving the message of their passing in the snow.

Ruffed grouse tracks, coming and going

These “wild chickens” have spent several weeks around our wooded yard, pecking for insects, eating buds and rose hips.

Someone one described the ruffed grouse as a lunchbox on legs. An apt description. It’s high on the menu of many meat-eaters including owls, coyotes and foxes.

Ruffed grouse have a weird habit of freezing when danger threatens — which perhaps gave rise to another nickname, fool hens. Freezing is all well and good when you blend into the background. When you’re standing in the middle of the road and a car is bearing down on you, well, not so much.

The Ruffed Grouse Society has an excellent website — info, photos and, of course, an audio clip of drumming. (The male grouse is quite musically inclined when in the mood to mate. Sounds sort of like an old steam engine picking up speed as it leaves the station.)

Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus
October 16, 2016