The Ruffed Grouse is a bird of the forests across much of North America, from Alaska and the mountains of the west through Canada, and in the east down through the Appalachians to Georgia. It is a beautiful bird and well worth taking some time to examine closely if such a situation can somehow be arranged. A close look at a grouse is not something that is very likely unless the viewer is very lucky, however, as Ruffed Grouse tend to be wary and will explode into flight if approached too closely, usually well before the person trying to get a good look is even aware that the bird is present. This is not to say that a good look is impossible, especially if a car is used as a blind. From cars I have had great views of Ruffed Grouse, including the encounter that is documented with photographs in this post.
My first encounter with a grouse was more typical. I was in my early teens and hiking in the Catskills in the snow with a friend when an explosion of bird took off from about two feet in front of us startling me to the point that I fell on my butt in the snow. At the time I had no idea what had so scared me and it was only in retrospect that I realized that my encounter was with Bonasa umbellus, or what the folks who hunt them typically call “partridge.”
The bird in the images in this post wandered out onto a dirt road in the Adirondack Mountains of New York four years ago, probably to grit, and when Daisy and I drove up it walked up onto the side of a snowbank, looked around a bit, and then made its way over the snowbank and into the woods. Some shots here were taken by Daisy because the grouse was on the passenger side but at some point she handed me the camera and I took over photographing this beautiful bird. The fog of time has clouded my recollection of exactly which shots she took and which I did but what matters is that we both were very happy to see such a gorgeous bird so well.
BirdLife International lists the Ruffed Grouse as a Species of Least Concern because of its large range and population. Though its population appears to be in decline it is not decreasing rapidly enough to qualify as Vulnerable. Habitat loss would appear to be the biggest threat to the grouse’s population, but it has the benefit of being both extremely liberal in its diet and a favorite target of hunters who do a lot of work to ensure that enough suitable habitat remains for the birds so that they can keep shooting them.
Enjoy these shots of Ruffed Grouse and remember that shooting them with a camera brings as much joy as shooting them with a gun and leaves the bird intact to be enjoyed by the next person…
That last shot has a bigger version that will pop up if you click it. I hope you liked these shots of Ruffed Grouse. If you want to see more great galleries of bird pictures check out 10,000 Clicks!
This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #138. Go check it out!
My experience with this species is similiar, also from the car but near Great Smokey Mountain National Park, NC.
I really like the constrast of snow and bird. Thanks for sharing Corey!
I’m sorry but Ruffed Grouse may take the cake in being the “dumbest bird” in America. Just saying.
Do you remember that female with the chicks that attacked me on Wakely Mountain when we did that Bicknell’s Thrush hike?
Very attractive looking thing.
Impressive shots of this cool bird! I also clearly recall my first experience with this species- several bursting into flight as we walked through woods in northeastern Pennsylvania. My uncle Fred (who is much more of a hunter than a birder) was waving his arms and exclaiming “Ruffed Grouse! Ruffed Grouse!” As this was just a year into my birding career, it was one of my first 100 life birds. The experience was also nothing short of magical since I was 8 at the time and rarely got the chance to leave Niagara Falls, NY.
Nice shots, you can really appreciate the intricate patterns in its feathers. I would be much better camouflaged once the snow was gone.
You and Daisy did an excellent job with that photo op Corey! What a gorgeous bird! Isn’t it strange that so many game birds have such beautiful plumage? I’m sure the fact they they need the camouflage has something to do with that. Wow these are impressive photographs.
I saw a grouse at congdon mill RD at 4:20 november 5th 2011. he was eating gravel on the side of the rode. i was able to observe him and take photos for a few minutes. it was the first time i saw one!
I am attempting to purchase a photo of a ruffed grouse as a small gift for my boss for Christmas. He is a Yupper and goes home to Michigan once a year to hunt. I am having trouble finding photos at a reasonable price. Any suggestions?
Just had some Ruffed Grouse in the trees beside my home. What a joy to capture them on film.
i have a grouse that started coming and eating clover in my yard.it has started going with and doing every thing my husband does. it stays with him all the time. this is a wild bird what should we do. please comment.
It’s Yooper, not Yupper, and, find him a carving or painting, not a photo. Just google/images for ‘wildlife art grouse’ and you’ll find all the links you need.
And consider a wildlife art calendar, not just a single work of art.