16-19" (40-48 cm). Two color phases. Red phase: mottled rufous above, lighter and barred below; tail red, finely barred, with broad, dark subterminal band and light tip. Gray phase: gray replaces red and rufous. Both phases show a slight crest, a fan-shaped tail, and black feathers on sides of neck.
Similar Species- Female Spruce Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse
Male beats wings on logs in an accelerating drum roll. May sound like a distant motor starting up.
Central Alaska and most of forested Canada, south to northern California, central Arizona, central Idaho, central Utah, western South Dakota, Minnesota, Georgia, and Virginia.
Found in wet or relatively dry, dense forests with some deciduous trees, such as boreal forests (especially early seral stages dominated by aspen) or northern hardwood ecotone. In southeastern Idaho study, Ruffed Grouse were associated with early-successional aspen stands year-round.
Young eat mainly insects and spiders. Adults eat insects (30% of summer diet), nuts, flowers, buds, and leaves of trees and shrubs, seeds, and fruits. In many areas, aspen, willow, and rose family are important food resources.
Nests in depression on ground. Usually roosts in small groups in winter. Population densities may fluctuate (10- yr cycle in some populations). Spring density may reach 2-10/40 ha; fall density 20-55/ha (highest in boreal forest regions). brood home range is about 6-19 ha. In Missouri study, mean adult male home range was 67 ha in spring-summer, 104 ha in fall-winter. Mature and some immature males may defend a territory. Predators include Great-horned Owl and Northern Goshawk. Shallow snow cover or icy crust on snow may reduce winter survival by precluding access to subnivean shelter.
Important State References:
Stauffer, D.F. and S.R. Peterson. 1985. Ruffed and blue grouse habitat use in southeastern Idaho. J. Wildl. Manage. 49:459-466.