Thursday, April 25, 2013

The King of the Forest

What comes to mind when you think of the King of New York’s forest?

Black bear?
White-tailed deer?
Wild Turkey?


Ruffed Grouse caught on camera trap in Naples, NY.
For me, it’s the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). This sturdy, charismatic little upland game bird runs the woods. This past March I stumbled across some fresh Grouse tracks in the snow. These were tracks I’d never seen before, and I’m glad to have added him to my “list”. He struts around, feeding and protecting his territory. He perches and “drums” from a specially chosen log.

Just about a year ago, the Wildlife Society student chapter I was involved with at Finger Lakes Community College, had set out camera traps. We ended up getting a Ruffed Grouse all “ruffed” up, but because it was the group of us, I don’t count it for my person collection of camera-trapped species.

For the past 5ish months, I’ve had my Cuddeback Attack camera set up on this log in my backyard. It’s yielded raccoons, Crows, coyotes, fisher, opossum, squirrels, etc etc. So, imagine my surprise when I checked my camera the other day, and saw a Grouse visiting!

Unfortunately, he was not drumming. Or she. But, it was pecking around at rotten trout eggs I had thrown out there over the winter. At the fish hatchery at the college, there was a bucket of “dead” eggs that had not taken to being spawned. I took them, thinking they would be excellent critter bait. No one was really interested, except the Grouse!



This bird is the epitome of the term “cryptically colored”. I have had the experience of stepping off-trail once for a …break… and almost losing it because I just about stepped on one of these. They blend into the forest floor SO well, and their tactic is to sit still and then burst out of hiding at the last moment. Can you say…heart attack inducing?

They’ve been known to be very interested in their own reflection, because their little bird brain perceives the reflection to be competition. I’m thinking about going to the dollar store and getting a makeup mirror and attaching somehow to the tree my camera is on. I think it would make for some AWESOME pictures if this Grouse comes back.

For now though, I'll leave you with this video of the King.



  1. I hope that Mr. Grouse comes back! The mirror would be hilarious.

    I've been catching up with you. Love the bear den visits! I'm jealous. Nobody used the rock den that I know this year so I took down my cam. I'll return next winter to find out if anyone is there!

    Loved the bird posts as well!

  2. Yes, a mirror might be so entertaining, your list is growing by the day, is the grouse a bird that would be on a hunter's list? A bit like turkey maybe? Grouse were introduced in New Zealand but failed to become naturalised. Greetings from Jean.p.s. lovely video!!

  3. Good stuff! The grouse takes me back to the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. The main character would find "fool birds" to hunt for survival, and he talked about how camouflaged they were. Unfortunately, I've never seen a grouse. Awesome looking birds!



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