New Brunswick's Partridge
New Brunswick has four upland game bird species, members of Phasianidae. These include the Ruffed Grouse, the Spruce Grouse, the Ring-necked Pheasant and the Wild Turkey which is gradually moving into our province from Maine. The Ruffed Grouse is the most common of these species.
The common name for the Ruffed Grouse is the 'Partridge'. This time of year it is not uncommon to see a female working her way along a wood's road with her chicks following along. She is searching for insects and invertebrates on the ground to teach them how to find foot. When she finds something interesting she clucks repeatedly and the chicks flock around to find something good to eat.
The Ruffed Grouse lives in deciduous or mixed woods where it nests on the ground. It usually lays 8 to 14 buff-colored eggs which it incubates for 21 to 28 days. The chicks are mobile soon after hatching. It eats forbs, fruits, insects, buds and catkins of aspens, birches and cherry trees.
The Ruffed Grouse is long-tailed and sports a crest. It has a broad dark subterminal band on its tail which is complete in the male and incomplete in the female. The central area of the band in the female is blotchy or missing. When alarmed, the grouse spreads its fan-shaped tail and extrudes the black ruffs on the sides of the neck. It then struts and looks as fierce as it can. See the photo below.
The aggressive-looking bird shown above is a male as determined by the complete wide dark subterminal tail band.
Ruffed Grouse are well camouflaged by their streaky plumage. They are also good at hiding in the grasses and foliage when danger presents itself. See the winter bird below sleeping on a log. This bird was really difficult to see even with the snow around it.
The Ruffed Grouse can be differentiated from the Spruce Grouse by the crest on the head. The Spruce Grouse has a shorter tail and neck and white spotting on its body. It prefers to live in coniferous forests.