Saturday was a great time to be out in the woods soaking in the wonderful sounds and scents that early summer brings to the Northwoods. At times the fragrance of the wild berry blossoms were overwhelming the senses. We were lucky to come across not one, but two separate families of Ruffed Grouse. At only 1/3 the size of their mother these little rockets are incredibly fast fliers. We watched in amazement as one after another of these little birds popped up out of some short grass and flew off. Lucky for us, a couple landed in a nearby tree that gave us a decent look at them. In the following image, this little guy or gal is doing it best to show off it's crest...even though it is only one little feather. We were able to quickly capture a few images before mom's persistent calling drew the family into the thick forest to regroup.
- The early conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote of the Ruffed Grouse, “The autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a Ruffed Grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead.”
- Ruffed Grouse can digest bitter, often toxic plants that many birds can’t handle. Levels of defensive plant compounds in buds of quaking aspen, a major winter-time food source for Ruffed Grouse, reflect the cyclic rise and fall of grouse populations: they’re lowest when grouse densities are increasing, and highest when grouse densities decline.
- The toes of Ruffed Grouse grow projections off their sides in winter, making them look like combs. The projections are believed to act as snowshoes to help the grouse walk across snow.