Bonasa umbellus
(Ruffed Grouse)

Order: Galliformes
Order Description: Pheasant, Grouse, Turkey, Quail
Family: Phasianidae
Family Description: Pheasant, Grouse, Turkey, Quail

Physical Description:
16-19" (40-48 cm). Two color phases. Red phase: mottled rufousClick word for definition 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 deciduousClick word for definition trees, such as borealClick word for definition forests (especially early seral stages dominated by aspen) or northern hardwood ecotoneClick word for definition. 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 roostsClick word for definition in small groups in winter. Population densities may fluctuate (10- yr cycle in some populations). Spring densityClick word for definition may reach 2-10/40 ha; fall density 20-55/ha (highest in boreal forest regions). broodClick word for definition 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 subniveanClick word for definition shelter.

Drumming/mating peak in mid-March to May, depending on range. Egg laying occurs April-May, depending on latitude. Female incubatesClick word for definition 4-19 eggs (generally 9-12) for 23-24 days. Nestlings are precocialClick word for definition and downy, and fly in 10-12 days. Young are tended by female. broodsClick word for definition break up in fall when young are about 84 days old (young disperse at about 120-125 days in Wisconsin). Single-brooded, but females may renest if first nesting attempt is unsuccessful. Sexually mature in 1 yr; uncommonly lives more than 5 yr. Cold, wet weather in May/June may cause high losses among broods.

Element Code: ABNLC11010
Status: Game species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5
National Rank: N5

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.

Photo by C. Trost, ©1999.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.