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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

[Plate LXXVIII. Ruffed grouse, partridge, or pheasant. (Bonasa umbellus.) cont.],   pp. 121-122

Page 121

RUFFED GROUSE.                           121
le States, and, in the Southern States it is named the
The multiplication of names that this species has at-
caused considerable confusion, in regard to which Dr.
s :
smewhat singular that a misapprehension should subsist,
ig well-informed persons, in regard to this species. The
in the minds of some is, doubtless, partly due to the fact
rd goes under different names in different parts of the
and we are often asked, is it a Partridge, or is it a Pheas-
which reply may be made that it is neither, but a Grouse.
' is a name of a variety of birds of the family Phasian-
venous to Southern Asia, and not represented in this
all. The best known species is that one long ago in-
rito England, and there thoroughly naturalized. (The
nerican representative of the Pheasants is the Wild Tur-
h is sometimes included in the family Phasianide. )
' is the name of a group of small gallinaceous birds,
e the Phasianid&a, belong exclusively to the Old World,
can Partridges, so called, being quite a different set of
ulrub. A poverty oI our language in thle matter of names of va-
rious American birds has caused them to become known by some
term really belonging only to their (real or supposed) nearest Eu-
ropean relatives. It would simplify matters much, to discard al-
together the terms ' Pheasant' and ' Partridge,' by which this spe-
cies is known in, respectively, the Northern and Southern States,
and call it by its proper name of ' Ruffed Grouse.' The bird it-
self is unmistakable; no other species has the conspicuous ruffle
of lengthened, broad, soft, silky feathers on the neck; and the
only other species with any feathery neck-appendages is the Pin-
nated Grouse, where the appendages are like little wings of nar-
row, straight, pointed feathers. The Ruffed Grouse may be con-
founded by some with the Canada Grouse, or ' Spruce Partridge'
(Tetrao canadensis), but this has no lengthened feathers on the
neck, and is otherwise entirely different."
Parker Gilmore's account of this species, in his " Prairie and
Forest," a valuable work, descriptive of the game of North Amer-
ica, says:
"1 This worthy member of a noble family loves the woodland
glades and rocky hill-sides. The verge of the prairie he may oc-
casionally visit, but let him be disturbed, his fears excited, like
arrow from bow he will wing his way direct to the friendly shelter
of the forest. But all woods do not suit the fastidious taste of this
beauty; for when there exists only the fat, damp, slimy, bottom-
lands, that margin so many of the southwestern rivers, he is not
to be found. No, rolling country and hilly spurs are his home,
where, deep in the shelter of the laurel, cedar, hemlock, hazel,
and birch, he can laugh at his pursuers, unless they are the very
quickest and best of shots. But I allude to where he has known
nran, and learned to dread his presence as ominous of evil; for,
where such is not the case, if flushed, they are often satisfied to
settle upon the first tree in the neighborhood, regarding the in-
truder with looks of wonder, and remain, gratifying their excited
curiosity, till the whole covey have been shot in detail. Through-
out Canada West they are numerous. At the northern end of
Lake Simcoe I found them very abundant; also on the hillsides
that cradle in the lovely, peaceful Lake Umbagog, in Oxford
county, Maine; but western Maryland and Virginia are also favor-
ite haunts; in fact, it may be found everywhere where wood,
water, and hillside combine to form for it a suitable haunt, between
thirty-two and fifty degrees of north latitude.
"' In April, these birds pair. . . . They lay from ten to six-
teen eggs; their nest, which is a very primitive one, being gener-
ally secreted in brush, or under the shelter of a fallen log. They
are most affectionate parents, and use the same artifices as the
Wild Duck to draw away the intruder from the vicinity of their
youthful progeny.  This Grouse has two distinct calls, one a
soft, mellow, prolonged note, generally used in gathering after the
covey has been broken up; the other, an extraordinary drumming
sound, made by the cocks in the pairing season, and capable of
being heard, in still weather, a great distance. The latter noise
is caused by the rapid vibration of the wings when the male is
perched on a fallen tree or stump. Indiscriminately, they live on
a great variety of food-ants, grubs, alder-berries, wild cherries,
and grain, being their favorite diet. Early in autumn, when the
weather is fine, particularly in the morning and evening, they will
be found in the open cultivation, more especially if there be rough
ground with brush in the vicinity; but as severe weather ap-
proaches, the woods will become their constant resort. In shoot-
ing the Ruffed Grouse, great difficulty is always experienced in
marking them. Their flight, as I have previously said, is won-
derfully rapid, and they have a method of doubling back in the
reverse direction to which they started ; however, as they do not
generally go far (about three or four hundred yards), with pa-
tience and a selection of the nearest irregular ground which has
growing timber upon it, or the densest brush that is in the neigh-
borhood, a second opportunity will probably occur of bringing
more of the family to a bag. In many portions of the United
States and Canada they are known by the misnomers of Partridge
and Pheasant. Frequently, when trout fishing in the wilds of the
State of Maine, I have come suddenly upon them, when they would
rise into the nearest tree, and remain with unconcern watching me;
from evident curiosity, they would stretch their necks, and get into
all kinds of grotesque attitudes; and so little would thev then re.
gard the report of a gun, that I have known pot-hunters kill quite
a number of the same family by always shooting the lowest first.
But when the Ruffed Grouse becomes familiar with man, he is
perfectly cognizant of the danger of being in his proximity. Al-
though before dogs they lie close, their color harmonizes so well
with that of the ground, that it is next to impossible to see them
before they are on the wing.
"1 In the undergrowth which springs up in that portion of the
country where the timber has been destroyed by fire, I ever found
them very abundant, it being almost impossible to wander half a
mile through such openings without flushing a covey. As these
generally occur in the lumber regions, where the winters are par-
ticularly long and rigorous, far exceeding in severity those of
Scotland, the hardiness of this bird can not be doubted. In the
Alleghanies and all the southern ranges of hills of the United
States it is also abundant, where, if the winters are less severe,
the heat in summer is sometimes excessive, proving that the Ruffed
Grouse is capable of enduring great varieties of climate.
" The palate of the most fastidious epicure can not fail to be
gratified with the appearance of this game on the table, the flesh
being extremely delicate, with a strong flavor of our Red Grouse.
I have eaten it cooked in every conceivable manner, and whether
it be simply roasted over a camp-fire, or form a portion of an
omnium gatherum stew, it will be found alike acceptable. Al-
though scarcity of food may compel this Grouse to change its
beat, still it is not migratory, as stated by some naturalists. The
supposition has arisen from their being found in great numbers,
during summer and autumn, on the scrub barren land, which they
leave as soon as the more severe weather commences, for the
shelter of the dense timber. A family of these birds I was ac-
quainted with for a year. On their range there was an abundance
of food and water, and during that period I could always find them,
their home being a little, hilly island in the prairie, covered with
timber and brush, and detached from any irregular land by sev-
eral miles of grass.
" Some authorities have placed Woodcock shooting first in the
list, and called it the fox-hunting of those pleasures in which the
dog and gun form the chief accessories. As far as present Brit-
ish field-sports are concerned, I believe they are correct; but,
should the Ruffed Grouse be introduced, and Englishmen ex-
perience the suddenness of their rise, the velocity and irregularity
of their flight, the uncertainty of their movements, and the beauty
and size of this game when bagged, they would assuredly insert

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