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