Ruffed grouse at the feeder

February 20, 2020 • 3:00 pm

Here’s some light entertainment for the afternoon: 11 minutes of a lovely Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) visiting an Ontario birdcam. I’ve added the YouTube notes (indented) so you can see when it erects its plumage, which is a stunning sight. Such beautiful feathers!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these in the wild, though I’ve mostly lived out of their range (map below). They are nonmigratory, and don’t seem to be near Chicago.

Well hello there! It’s always a treat when a Ruffed Grouse stops by the Ontario FeederWatch cam, and this individual isn’t shy about showing off its cocked crest and beautifully mottled plumage while strutting around the platform. You absolutely don’t want to miss when the grouse begins to display at 6:33 by fanning its tail feathers and erecting the glossy black feathers on its neck into a ruff!

Watch online with highlight clips and information about the birds at

Thanks to Perky-Pet for helping to make the Ontario FeederWatch Cam possible! The FeederWatch cam is located in a residential neighborhood in Manitouwadge, Ontario. This northern site is an excellent location to see winter finches like redpolls and grosbeaks as well as two species of Jays and even Ruffed Grouse!

The feeders sit in the middle of a large backyard with a large birch tree that the birds love, as well as a mixed stand of conifers and several fruit and berry producing shrubs. There’s a small swamp just beyond the backyard as well as larger stands of woods and a small lake.The feeder system is the product of the camera hosts’ ingenuity, making use of plastic piping to support the feeders high enough above ground to foil the occasional squirrel, and a rotating set of feeders that provide black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seed, whole and shelled peanuts, and peanut butter suet in a homemade hanging log to the dozens of species that visit.

The range map from the Cornell Bird site:

16 thoughts on “Ruffed grouse at the feeder

  1. I know almost nothing about these birds, living in areas where there are none. Odd that both pheasants and quail are all over the Midwest but not grouse.

    1. from the distribution I would say it was a woodland bird – are there other species on what once was the Prairie?

  2. Someone in my birding group has studied these birds for decades, and reports that the numbers have declined in central Idaho. Amazing to see this fellow grouse his ruff and spread his tail.

  3. Some years ago, we lived in a wooded area in upstate New York. A Ruffed Grouse started to visit our ground feeders soon after dawn and before dusk. This was winter time. Its behavior was similar to that seen in the video. One day, a neighbor pointed out that the grouse was sitting on the roof ridge of the house. My young kids got a kick out of watching the bird feed, and they named it Grover the Grouse.

  4. Some book I read when I was about 9 featured a ruffed grouse (Robinson Crusoe? Dr. Doolittle?). Somehow my brain interpreted it as “ruffled” grouse and it was years before I realized my mistake. Also bedraggled which in my head I pronounced BEDraggled…

  5. Very interesting birds. Males ‘drum’ in the spring, which sounds like a lawn mower starting up. Worth checking out videos if you’ve never seen the behavior. In northern Minnesota, we’ve had a few tame grouse that would come running towards our ATV throughout the year and would allow us to pick them up. We thought they mistakened the sound of the ATV as another grouse.

  6. We have a plentiful supply of ruffed grouse here in NS, where they are referred to as ‘fool hens’ as they seem to be remarkably stupid when it comes to survival skills. They’ll even stand in the road and stare uncomprehendingly at a car when it rushes towards them, and then walk in a slow and stately fashion to the side after the horn is honked. They must have descended from some of the more easily caught prey dinosaurs!

    1. Yes, if I’m feeling tactful I’ll describe them as “very, very tame.” 🙂

      Decades ago when I used to hunt grouse (we called them partridge) with my father, we happened across two sunning themselves on a rock in a small clearing. Dad said “you take the one on the left” and we both took aim… the one on the right exploded in a puff of feathers and the one on the left was unscathed. I had missed! So lefty just sat there on the rock looking around, presumably wondering where his friend had gone, giving dad plenty of time to reload and bag him.

      I don’t hunt anymore, but encounter plenty of them in the woods. They generally scare the dickens out of me because they are so well camouflaged and so very “tame” that you almost have to step on one before it’ll react. And the reaction is to escape via a sudden, incredibly noisy vertical takeoff followed by a short flight through the bush.

      Very charming and delicious birds.

      1. NS might also have Spruce Grouse which, in my experience, are unbelievably unwary. We have had them walk right up to us, stand on my wife’s boots and strut along in front of our car. We have seen Spruce Grouse both in Maine and NS.

        1. The distribution of ruffed and spruce grouse overlap in Minnesota too. However, in my opinion they do not overlap in taste. We’d often pass on taking spruce grouse during hunting season.

  7. Wow, that’s something! My cats are big fans of these kinds of videos — you can find 6-9 hour recordings of birds and other wildlife on youtube when you search “videos for cats.” This isn’t as long as those, but it’s getting added to the playlist. And I’ll have to check out Cornell Lab’s other videos. The boys will go nuts for this, and I should know as I find myself watching their videos as much as they do.

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