grouse

grouse

[grous]
grouse, common name for a game bird of the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 18 species. Grouse are henlike terrestrial birds, protectively plumaged in shades of red, brown, and gray. The nostrils are entirely hidden by feathers, and the legs are partially or completely feathered.

The most common eastern American grouse is the ruffed grouse (sometimes miscalled partridge or pheasant), Bonasa umbellus, a forest bird noted for the drumming sound made by the male during its elaborate courtship dance. The ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), or snow grouse, is an arctic species that migrates to the NW United States in winter, when its plumage changes from rusty brown to white, matching the snow. Western American grouse include the prairie chicken, Tympanuchus cupido, once common in the East, and the sage grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus. The latter, called also sage hen, sage cock, or cock of the plains, is the largest American grouse (25-30 in./62.5-70 cm long) and so named because its flesh tastes strongly of sage—the result of feeding on sagebrush buds. The males of both these species are distinguished by yellow air sacs on the neck that inflate to an enormous size during courtship. European species include the capercaillie, the largest grouse (roughly the size of turkey), and the black grouse. The red grouse is found in Great Britain.

Striking fluctuations in the abundance of all grouse species occur in intervals of 7 to 10 years. A combination of factors, rather than a single explanation, appears to be the cause for this not entirely understood phenomenon. Fortunately, grouse have high reproductive rates, which enable them to restore their populations after a low-level period.

Grouse are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Tetraonidae.

Blackcock (Lyrurus tetrix)

Any of various game birds in the family Tetraonidae (order Galliformes), including the prairie chicken and ptarmigan, or the sandgrouse (order Columbiformes). The best-known Old World species is the black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) of Wales, Scotland, Scandinavia, and northern central Europe. The male, iridescent blue-black with white wing bars, may be 22 in. (55 cm) long and weigh about 4 lbs (almost 2 kg); the smaller female is mottled brown and barred with black. Grouse are noted for the male's communal courtship dances. The best-known North American species is the ruffed grouse.

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Grouse are a group of birds from the order Galliformes. Often considered a family Tetraonidae, the American Ornithologists' Union and many others include grouse as a subfamily Tetraoninae in the family Phasianidae. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside. Most species are year-round residents, and do not migrate.

These birds feed mainly on vegetation, but also on insects, especially when feeding young. Several of the forest-living species are notable for eating large quantities of conifer needles, which most other vertebrates refuse. In all but one species (the Willow Grouse, called Willow Ptarmigan in America), males are polygamous, and many species have elaborate courtship displays. These heavily built birds have legs feathered to the toes.

They are game and are sometimes hunted for food.

Species

Genus Dendragapus

Genus Lagopus - ptarmigans

Genus Tetrao - black grouse

Genus Bonasa

Genus Centrocercus - sage-grouse

Genus Tympanuchus - prairie grouse

References

  • de Juana, E. (1994). Family Tetraonidae (Grouse). Pp.376-411 in; del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 2. New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 8487334156

External links

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