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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Ruffed Grouse -- Bonasa umbellus

RANGE: Resident from central Alaska and northern Yukon to southern Labrador south to northwestern California, central and eastern Idaho, central Utah, Wyoming and Montana, central and southeastern Minnesota, Ohio, in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and northeastern Virginia; locally to western South Dakota; introduced and established in Iowa and Newfoundland.

STATUS: Fairly common; population fluctuates.

HABITAT: Inhabits successional to subclimax hardwood forests larger than 10 acres that have Betula or Populus present and an understory of small hardwoods, shrubs, and fruit-producing bushes (early successional stages of plant growth on logged-over areas are ideal). Male uses logs, rocks, or other elevated sites for drumming in spring. Frequents hedgerows and brushy patches in early fall; moves into more heavily wooded areas, especially coniferous cover in winter. Roosts in snow when snow is deep and soft, or may roost in trees or on the ground.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Hardwood forests with some conifers, dense undergrowth, openings, and drumming sites for males.

NEST: Nests on dry ground in the shelter of a fallen log, rock, root, or low-hanging conifer limb, usually near the base of a tree. Commonly nests within 100 feet of a road, path, or clearing, and close to a source of water.

FOOD: During winter, feeds primarily on aspen buds, but also on buds of birch, alder, and hazel. In other seasons, consumes an extremely varied diet, including over 600 species of plants (seeds, fruits, leaves, and buds), insects, and other animals, although animal food is only predominate in the diet the first 2 weeks after hatching.

REFERENCES: Boag and Sumanik 1969, Bump et al. 1947, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1973, Rue 1973.

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