Bonasa umbellusruffed grouse

Geographic Range

Ruffed grouse are found throughout Canada and in 38 of the 49 continental United States. In the east they extend as far south as northern Georgia. In the western states ruffed grouse are found along the western slopes of the Cascades into northern California and in the Rocky Mountains into Wyoming and central Utah. In the central United States isolated populations persist in the Dakotas and as far south as Arkansas. Populations have been introduced into Newfoundland and Nevada. (Ruffed Grouse Society, 2003)


The Ruffed Grouse prefers forested areas in rough, cold lands. It also prefers dim and quiet woods, deep thickets, or sheltered swamps. The Ruffed Grouse doesn't like open fields, and will rarely, if never, be found there.


Physical Description

The Ruffed Grouse is approximately 18 inches in length. The color is two-toned reddish-brown and spotted on the back, and yellowish with dark bars beneath. The tail has 18 broad feathers, which appear to be half-diamond shaped when spread. The tarsus is partly feathered.

Pearson, 1940.

  • Average mass
    644 g
    22.70 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.3894 W


The Ruffed Grouse is a ground nesting bird. The female lays one egg per day, until her clutch is complete. The average clutch is about 11 eggs. The female sits on the eggs, in the nest, until the eggs hatch, after 23 to 26 days. Fledging occurs after 8 to 10 weeks.

Pearson, 1940, USDA Forest Service 2001.

  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    24 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    120 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    120 days



The Ruffed Grouse is a very parental bird. The female takes care of the hatchlings until they can roost on their own in trees. These are fairly solitary birds, except during mating season, when they congregate together.

The male grouse has a peculiar habit, that any woodsperson is probably familiar with, although few have actually witnessed it. The male makes a distinct drumming sound. This drumming serves three purposes. First, it is given as a call to females, Second, it is given as a challenge to combat between two males during mating season, Third, it is given as an expression of vigor and vitality, usually at the end of mating season.

Leonard, 1973.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Over one-fourth of the Ruffed Grouse's diet is made up of fruit, such as thorn apples, blueberries, strawberries. It also eats wild and cultivated sunflower seeds, birch, poplar, and willow buds. The Christmas Fern is also a special food for the Ruffed Grouse.

Young Ruffed Grouse Chicks are primarily insectivorous, until they are old enough to care fo r themselves.

Birds of America, 1940.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Ruffed Grouse is hunted for sport, so areas that have very dense populations of the bird benefit from extra tourism during the hunting season

Also, The Ruffed Grouse hatchlings are mainly insectivorous, so the insect populations in some area decrease shortly after the hatching season.

Peterson, 1980.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Some farmers are troubled by these birds, because they are primarily fruit eaters.

Leonard, 1973.

Conservation Status

The Ruffed Grouse is hunted for sport, but it is far from being endangered. The only real requirement that the Ruffed Grouse needs is a forested region, so this is another animal that could be affected by extensive deforestation.

Other Comments

I first experienced the Ruffed Grouse when I was about six, and I was wandering about in my uncle's woods. I was startled by the characteristic "drumming" sound. Since then, I have heard the noise several times, in various wooded areas.


Jeff Haupt (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


Pearson, T.G. 1940. Birds of America. Third Edition. Garden City Publishing Company, New York.

Leonard, L.R. 1973. The World of the Ruffed Grouse. First Edition. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York.

Peterson, Tory, and Roger. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds. Houghton Mifflin Publishing, Boston.

Ruffed Grouse Society, 2003. "Ruffed grouse facts" (On-line). Accessed February 14, 2005 at

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, 2001. "Fire Effects Information System: Bonasa umbellus" (On-line). Accessed 30 May 2001 at