Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

29 March

As far as biodiversity goes it is still pretty wintery and the botanical and insect specimens have yet to emerge and thrill us – so more birds it is. This very smart bird was in the arboretum and gave itself away by making a noise. Very shy, it quickly disappeared. Not a common bird, so look but don’t expect to see. They can digest foods high in cellulose and thus survive harsh winter conditions in the northern part of their range, where they feed on buds and twigs. Although insects and other invertebrates make up only a small part of the adult grouse’s diet, chicks 2 to 4 weeks old depend on this protein-rich prey.

The male Ruffed Grouse’s unique drumming display takes place from atop a low log, stump, or rock. The deep, thumping sound starts slowly and builds to a blurred crescendo as the bird rapidly rotates his wings back and forth. The drumming sequence lasts 8–10 seconds, during which the wings may beat up to 50 times.