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Merlin Bird ID

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    Ruffed Grouse

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    Ruffed Grouse

    Bonasa umbellus
    • ORDER: Galliformes
    • FAMILY: Phasianidae
    Basic Description

    The dappled, grayish or reddish Ruffed Grouse is hard to see, but its “drumming on air” display is a fixture of many spring forests. It can come as a surprise to learn this distant sound, like an engine trying to start, comes from a bird at all. This plump grouse has a cocky crest and a tail marked by a broad, dark band near the tip. Displaying males expose a rich black ruff of neck feathers, giving them their name.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Ruffed GrouseRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Seeing the secretive Ruffed Grouse can be quite difficult—although it can be easy to hear them when they are drumming. To track one down, note the locations where you hear drumming males—this is generally most frequent very early in the morning. Otherwise, you may encounter foraging birds simply by walking slowly and quietly through appropriate forest, or while driving along narrow forested roads. In winter, watch for Ruffed Grouse feeding on deciduous-tree buds in bare treetops along a road.

    Other Names
    • Grévol engolado (Spanish)
    • Gélinotte huppée (French)
    • Cool Facts