The Ruffed Grouse in Gaspésie, Canada
In the boreal forests of North America, there is a forest "hen", mysterious, mimetic: the Ruffed Grouse! It is a discreet bird that deserves to be known both for the beauty of its plumage and for its ability to adapt to its environment.
The color of its spotted and striped plumage ranges from pale gray to a rich mahogany hue, passing through a dark red which gives it a very good camouflage against predators. The Ruffed Grouse has a crest on the head, more or less pronounced depending on the time of year and individuals. Its habitat of choice is marked by the presence of deciduous and mixed forests with edges, clearings and the presence of water. It is a rather solitary bird. In breeding season, at the end of winter, the male displays assiduously to attract females. He shakes his feathers, raises them and unfolds his tail fan. He often uses a well-chosen promontory like a stump, a recumbent tree trunk, where he will make his wings vibrate faster and faster. This parade is called drumming, recalling that of the woodpeckers. After mating, the female chooses the location of her nest and builds it on the ground. It is a simple depression quickly dug and then lined with various plants. 7 to 12 eggs are dropped and the incubation lasts about 23 days. Soon, the young will leave the nest in search of food, under the increased supervision of their mother.
The Ruffed Grouse has a mainly herbivorous diet and feeds on buds, leaves and fruits. In winter, when the landscape is dominated by snow, it adapts by going up in the trees where seeds and other buds available.
In the Gaspé peninsula in Canada, the Ruffed Grouse is fairly common and can be observed quite easily, despite its camouflage. Most of the individuals encountered in this area were not very shy at all. I particularly remember observing a male who paraded a few meters from me on the path leading to Cap Gaspé (eastern end of Gaspésie)! Densities in this region of Quebec seem satisfactory considering taht sightings are very regular. However, in other areas, Ruffed Grouse populations are sparse. Densities are reported to be higher in rich ground forests and where landscape diversity is important. The mosaic of habitats and the richness of the forest layers constitute a valuable asset for maintaining populations in a given territory. The species is ranked as a minor concern according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) conservation status. The most important threat to this magnificent bird is the direct destruction of its habitat.
Sightings are easily feasible in most areas in Gaspésie, particularly in the Forillon National Park. It is a fascinating bird and rather good subject to pose for a picture!
If you wish to observe and photograph the Ruffed Grouse among many other incredible animals, join us on our ethical nature photo tour to Gaspésie.
Guide Salva Fauna
DAVID ALLEN SIBLEY, The Sibley Guide To Birds, A Scott & Nix Edition, 2014, 597p.
BEAUCHER, S. « La déesse des bois » dans Forêt Conservation, magazine de l’AFQ et des Clubs 4-H du Québec, Sillery (Québec), 1992, p. 100 et 101.
Fédération Canadienne de la Faune, Faune et Flore du Pays, la Gélinotte huppée. Site web : www.hww.ca/fr/faune/oiseaux/la-gelinotte-huppee.html (consulté le 31/05/2019).
Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature (UICN), Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). Site web : www.iucnredlist.org/species/22679500/131905854 (consulté le 31/05/2019).