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Pennsylvania State Bird – Ruffed Grouse

The Ruffed Grouse - Bonasa umbellus - is a medium-sized grouse occurring in forests in the northern regions of North America. They are one of 18 species of grouse. It’s habitat is Aspen woodlands and early succession mixed deciduous forests, with small clearings. It is non-migratory. The Ruffed Grouse is the Pennsylvania State Bird.


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. 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. The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. 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 tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. 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.


Female gives soft hen-like clucks. In spring displaying male sits on a log and beats the air with his wings, creating a drumming sound that increases rapidly in tempo.


These birds forage on the ground or in trees. They are omnivores, eating buds, leaves, berries, seeds and insects. Ruffed grouse favor the buds and twigs of aspen but also eat the fruits of dogwood, mountain ash, and thorn-apple. They also eat rose hips and the green leaves of clover, strawberries, bunchberry, aspen and some ferns. Insects are the primary food of ruffed grouse chicks.


The male ruffed grouse is known for its spring mating ritual, known as “drumming.” It stands on a platform, such as a rock, log or stump, and begins beating its wings slowly and then more rapidly, creating a hollow, drumming sound. Drumming not only attracts females but also defends territory from other males. The peak of the mating season is late April. The nest is a bowl-like depression in dead leaves and vegetation on the ground, typically at the base of a tree, stump, or boulder. Hens lay about 10 to 14 eggs that hatch in 23 days. The male grouse has no parenting role. The chicks stay with the hen until late September and are fully grown in 16 weeks.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

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.


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.

Pennsylvania Hotspots

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Presque Isle State Park

The National Aviary

Erie National Wildlife Refuge

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Imperial and Frick Park. 

Todd and Beechewood Sanctuaries.

Council Cup Scenic Overlook

Harveys Lake

Kirby Park Natural Area

Nescopeck State Park

Susquehanna Riverlands/Wetlands Nature Area

Seven Tubs Nature Area

Green Lake Park

Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge

Bristol Marsh, Bucks County

Chrome Serpentine Barrens

Florence Shelly Preserve

Stuart M. Stein Preserve 




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