Category Archives: Wildlife

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse – Bonasa umbellus

Organizations:

Ruffed Grouse Society providing grouse habitat management and information
Magazine about grouse and other upland bird hunting – www.uplandalmanac.com

Ruffed Grouse DescriptionLearn how to identify Ruffed Grouse, its life history, cool fact

-The ruffed grouse is identified by its tail with a black band near the end and the patch of feathers “ruffs” on the neck.

The birds have two distinct color phases, both of which may occur in the same family. The red phase predominates in the southern part of the range; the gray phase, in the northern part and at high altitudes. Red-phase birds have a mottled, brownish body and chestnut-colored tail. Gray-phase birds have a mottled, grayish body and gray tail.

Males are identified by the unbroken black tail band. In females, this band is less distinct on the central two feathers (below). On both sexes, the legs are feathered down to the base of the toes. Juveniles resemble adults by fall, although they are slightly smaller. For further descriptions of Grouse click on Ruffed Grouse Society Ruffed Grouse facts or check out Ruffed Grouse identification tips from the USGS

Ruffed Grouse Size – Adults measure 17 to 20 inches long and weigh 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females.

Ruffed Grouse Habitat

– Found throughout most of Canada and Alaska through the northern continental United States as far south as Georgia. They are border animals – that is they are mostly found in mixed-age woodlands with a combination of aspen, alder and birch intermixed with evergreens such as hemlock and pine. In the southern part of the range, the birds are found in woodlands with evergreen shrubs, such as holly, mountain laurel and rhododendron. Click on Grouse habitat management to learn how to make your land grouse friendly. Additional habitat information can be found at:

Ruffed Grouse habitat Management at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Ruffed Grouse habitat Management at the Department of Fish and Wildlife publication A Landowner’s Guide to Wildlife Habitat Management for Vermont Woodlands

Ruffed Grouse information and habitat management from Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife

Grouse Movement

– These birds spend their lives in a very small area usually no more than 50 or so acres. In early fall, however, young birds dispersing from their family may move miles away, an activity sometimes called the fall shuffle.

Ruffed Grouse Food

– Ruffed grouse feed on the fruits and buds of a wide variety of trees and shrubs. Populations are highest in areas with plenty of aspens – preferably older male trees, since these offer the most nutritious buds.

Ruffed Grouse Breeding

– Males establish territories in early spring, when the snow begins to melt. To attract a mate, the male finds a perch on logs, rocks, ground humps etc. and drums by making a series of wing beats that begins slowly and gradually accelerates. The sound travels over a distance and sound something like – thump….thump…thump, then the wing beating becomes fast like a lawnmower engine starting.

After breeding, the hen nests in a wooded area where there is a dense canopy to protect against hawks and owls and an open nderstory to let her spot approaching predators. She lays 8 to 14 buff-colored eggs in a shallow depression, usually against the base of a tree or in a clump of brush. The eggs hatch in about 24 days, and the chicks remain with the hen for 3 to 4 months before dispersing m the fall.

Information on the physical characteristics, behavior, habitat, and conservation of ruffed grouse.Ruffed Grouse Social Interaction

– Ruffed grouse do not form coveys like quail. However, small groups may be found around a food source. In the winter, birds often group together to snow roost -diving into fluffy snow to keep warm and evade predators. Ruffed grouse are not particularly vocal, but females may cluck softly and sometimes squeal to warn chicks of danger, and both sexes may hiss to defend their territory.

Ruffed Grouse Population

– Cyclical. In much of their range, ruffed grouse undergo 7 -10 year population cycles. Numbers in good years may be 15 times higher than in poor years.

Ruffed Grouse

Hunting – Grouse hunters often speak of snap-shooting-meaning that a ruffed grouse may flush so fast, so unexpectedly, that there’s no time for the kind of gun-swing that’s effective in most kinds of wingshooting. Instead, you snap the gun up and fire instantly, instinctively, as the muzzle passes the target. For this, you need a light, fast-handling shotgun that fits you well and doesn’t tend to get caught in brush or branches as you bring it up.

When hunting with a dog, particular attention must be paid to pick the right “four-legged” partner. The chief attribute of a good grouse dog is a nose so sharp that the animal freezes into a staunch point at a mere whiff of grouse before getting close enough to flush the bird. The next most important attribute is the habit of working close to the gun, combined with a willingness and learned ability to obey commands. Although some hunters feel that a fast-moving pointer pins birds more effectively than a slow one, you don’t want a wide-ranging quail dog for grouse because that kind of pointer will merely bump birds out of range or beyond screening foliage where you won’t even see them dodge away. The third most important attribute is visible “birdiness.” Some dogs give little or no sign that game is near until almost ready to point. Others become excited enough to alert you in advance, and this is a big help with grouse.

Since a grouse dog must work close to the gun, grouse hunters are inclined to take special care in training their dogs. It isn’t that they use any unique training methods but that they use the conventional ones more thoroughly. Any young dog that works too independently of the gun (or an older one in need of refresher lessons) may be slowed down by attaching a heavy chain or even a sash weight to his collar. This can be an especially needed corrective with a dog to be used for grouse hunting.

In winter, grouse often burrow completely under the snow, or sometimes they burrow partway down in a sheltered spot beneath a low umbrella of vegetation such as rhododendron. The legs of these birds are feathered almost to the toes, and at this time of year, the toes themselves are fringed with rods of cuticle called penctinations, which provide support on snow and are shed in the spring. This enables grouse to walk quite well on snow.

When hunting on a snow, you may occasionally see a little oblong crater where a grouse has landed. From there, try to follow its wide 2 ¼ or 2 ½ inch-long, three-pronged tracks. Each left or right print is placed rather precisely in front of the previous one. The bird may have taken off again, leaving only wing prints in the snow at the trail’s end, or the trail may give out in tangles of brush or clear ground beneath overhangs. But once in a while, you may follow to where a grouse has dug in. If there’s considerable snow on the ground, try to mark down any bird you move as precisely as you can. Working on snow, your dog might otherwise have trouble locating it for a second flush. Or perhaps you’re hunting without a dog. Either way, following the tracks can be worthwhile. For Ruffed grouse seasons and bag limits click to STATE AGENCIES on our site.

Magazine – www.uplandalmanac.com

Click on South Dakota Division of Wildlife to read about Grouse hunting in South Dakota.

Click on Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to read about Grouse hunting in the TOP grouse hunting state

Click on Maine Hunting Guides to book a hunting trip for Grouse in Maine

Click on Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to read about Sharp-tail Grouse Hunting in Wisconsin – a great state to be in

Click on New York DEC to read about Grouse Hunting in New York

Red Spotted Newt – Notophthalmus viridescens

General: The Red-spotted newt is one of the most common newts in the United States. The Red-Spotted Newt gets its name from the many red spots that occur on its dorsal surface against the background color of brown to olive green in adults. The red spotted newt undergoes two metamorphoses. The first is the usual transformation from aquatic, gilled larva to an air-breathing terrestrial sexually immature land phase called an Eft. Sometimes the eft stage is skipped completely and they go directly from the larval to the adult aquatic stage. The second metamorphosis is to a breeding aquatic adult Newts.

All newts have toxic skin secretions.

Average Size: Efts usually reach only about 3 inches. Adults reach lengths of nearly 5 inches

Life Span: The Eft stage may last anywhere from 1-7 years. Adult stage can last as long

Diet: Red efts eat waxworms, flies, small insects and invertebrates. They will also eat very small earthworms. Brine shrimp and ghost shrimp are common prey items. Bloodworms, whiteworms and small fish are also potential food items.

Breeding: Mating begins in the spring or the autumn, in shallow pools and ponds. The males grab the females from above, either around the chest or the neck, and will hover above them for what could be up to a few hours, then will suddenly drop a spermatophore and leave a moment later. The females lay their eggs in spring, and the clutch count is somewhere around 250 eggs. The larvae only need three or four weeks to hatch, and then normally metamorphose some 12 to 13 weeks

Larvae: The larvae are carnivorous from the time they have absorbed their yolk, a few days after hatching. From then on they eat live food. They will eat any insect, worm, etc they can over power.

Habitat: Eastern Newts are at home in both coniferous and deciduous forests. They need a moist environment with either a temporary or permanent body of water, and thrive best in a muddy environment. During the eft stage, they may travel far from their original location. Red efts may often be seen in a forest after a rainstorm. Adults prefer a muddy aquatic habitat, but will move to land during a dry spell.

Territory: As can be seen in the territory map, the red-spotted newt ranges almost the entire east of the United States, Maine to Georgia and all the way to the Mid-west (Mississippi areas).

Black-capped chickadee – Poecile atricapilla

Black-capped chickadee

General:

The black-capped chickadee is a familiar visitor to bird feeders in New York. When considering their small size, they seem almost fearless. Many a time I have had a chickadee land right next to me while filling the feeder. I During the fall migration and winter, chickadees often flock together.have been lucky enough to have them eat from my hand.

Black-capped chickadeeThe Black-capped Chickadee is very similar to the Carolina Chickadee and where their ranges overlap they can be difficult to separate. In fact, they have trouble telling themselves apart and hybrids occur. The most obvious difference between them is their songs. Black-capped sings a two note song while Carolina sings a four note song. Hybrids sing a three note song. They are the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts.

Identification tips:

The black-capped chickadee is approximately 4.5 inches long and has a short bill. It has a black crown and throat with a white face, pale gray upperparts and white edges to wing coverts. Their body has grayish-white underparts and rusty flanks. The sexes similar. They are often found in small flocks

Habitat:

Their breeding habitat is mixeBlack-capped chickadee ranged or deciduous woods in Canada, Alaska and the northern United States. They nest in a hole in a tree; the pair excavates the nest, using a natural cavity or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. They are permanent residents, but sometimes move south within their range in winter.

Food:

Insects form a large part of their diet, especially in summer; seeds and berries become important in winter. They sometimes hammer seeds on a tree or shrub to open them

Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter