Grouse

Grouse Roost

Grouse Trail and Roost (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Grouse Trail and Roost (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Grouse Roost (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Grouse Roost (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

In winter, grouse conserve energy by burrowing under the snow to roost.  You can often see a track left behind by a grouse that was sitting in the snow with just its head poking up above the surface.  Wing prints are often visible on the snowy surface, heading in the direction that the grouse left the roost.

Grouse Droppings (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Grouse Droppings (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

This fibrous scat was found in a grouse roosting location.  Grouse have two different kinds of droppings.  The solid scat shown above is from the lower gut.  A second type of scat comes from the cecum or upper gut.  The liquidy brown-coloured cecum scat comes out second and can often be found on top of the lower gut scat or at a different roosting site.

Grouse Cecum Scat (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Grouse Cecum Scat (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Grouse Feathers

Ruffed Grouse Tail Feather (Algonquin Park, 2014)

Ruffed Grouse Tail Feather (Algonquin Park, 2014)

We learned from our trip leader Alexis, that the shaft of a grouse tail feather has a distinct shape.  The calamus (end of the shaft closest to the bird) bends upward to the rachis (end of the shaft where the feather vanes attach).  Do all birds have this?  Does this shape offer an advantage to the bird’s survival? I wonder if grouse feathers are modified for display rather than flight?

Shaft of a Tail Feather (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Shaft of a Tail Feather (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Tip of Grouse Feather (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Tip of Grouse Feather (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

The tracking group had a good discussion on how to tell the difference between a male and a female grouse feather.  It was suggested that the colour of the tip of a grouse tail feather indicates male (black tip) or female (brown tip).  However, I could not find evidence to back up this claim.  I went to an “Upland Bird Hunting” web-site and found some more information:

“Generally, the central tail feather of a male ruffed grouse is six inches or longer. Central tail feathers from a female are shorter than six inches. The appearance of the band on the central tail feather can also indicate sex, but this method is not always reliable. A distinct black band indicates a male, but males do not always have a complete band. The band on a female is generally not complete.”*

*The Ultimate Hunting Community, n.d., viewed October 13, 2014, http://www.huntingnet.com/forum/upland-bird-hunting/173956-identifying-male-vs-female-ruffed-grouse.html

Here are a couple of images to help understand this identification method:

Males are identified by the unbroken black tail band.  The tail band for females is less distinct on the central two feathers. How do you know if you have found a central feather?

Grouse Dust Bath

Grouse Dust Bath (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Grouse Dust Bath (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Dust bathing is essential for plumage maintenance.  The preen gland exudes oil, which birds then preen through their plumage.  Dust bathing removes clots and excess amounts of oil.  Clots of oil result in feathers sticking together – leading to problems with flight, waterproofing and regulating heat. Dust bathing may also help eliminate parasites. (Bird Tracks and Sign*, page 271)

*Elbroch, M. & Marks, E. 2001, Bird Tracks and Sign, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.

Grouse dust baths tend to be round whereas cottontail rabbits create similar-sized oblong dust baths.  Upon closer inspection, we found feathers in the dust bath:

Ruffed Grouse Feathers (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Ruffed Grouse Feathers (Algonquin Park, August 2014)

Grouse Trail

Ruffed Grouse Trail in Snow (Luther Marsh, 2013)

Ruffed Grouse Trail in Snow (Luther Marsh, April 2013)

Grouse Browse

Spruce Grouse Browse on White Pine (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Spruce Grouse Browse on White Pine (Algonquin Park, February 2015)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s