Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus).
Ruffed Grouse have two distinct morphs, grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end ("subterminal"). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much browner, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more humid conditions favor browner birds in general.
The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both genders. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both sexes are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males often have unbroken tail bands. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.
Like most grouse, they spend most of their time on the ground, and when surprised, may explode into flight, beating their wings very loudly. Mixed woodland rich in aspen seems to be particularly well-liked. These birds forage on the ground or in trees. They are omnivores, eating buds, leaves, berries, seeds, and insects.
In spring, males attract females by drumming, beating their wings loudly, often while on a fallen log. Females nest on the ground, typically laying 6–8 eggs [verification needed].
Population densities across the continent have declined severely in recent decades, primarily from habitat loss. In Canada, the species is generally widespread, and is not considered globally threatened by the IUCN. Many states in the U.S. have open hunting seasons that run from September through January, but hunting is not considered to be a significant contributing factor in the population decline. More information available at: Wikipedia.org .
Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. 11 February 2007.