Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Friend in the Road

 Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
From its size and the length of its tail and wings, my little friend was a young male - he stood in the center of a gravel road in the Lanark highlands, vaguely aware that he ought to be doing something, but not sure what that something was.

His barred and dappled plumage was lovely, ranging from a deep rusty burgundy to cream and gray.  The coloring is a form of wild woodland camouflage, designed by nature to protect grouse from predators in their native habitat, the eastern Ontario highlands.  If the little guy lived in scrub or on the edge of open fields, he would have been much lighter in color.

In springtime, male grouse drum in the woods to define territory and attract a mate, but getting this close to one in any season is rare.  Ornithologists and field naturalists once thought that the grouse's courtship song is produced by drumming its wings against fallen logs, but it is not so.   The bird generates its "come hither" song by cupping its wings and whirring them rapidly back and forth in the air, hence its northern nickname of  "drummer bird". Striking the ground lightly with one's hand or foot sometimes prompts a grouse to start drumming in season.

This little guy had no idea that motor vehicles are hazardous, and he had no intention of leaving the road.  I had to get out the car and shoo him out of our way, then shepherd him over a rail fence and into a nearby field.  He made a small purring sound in thanks, and then he disappeared completely into a stand of withered milkweed.

2 comments:

Loren said...

Nice shot.

Unfortunately I haven't managed to see one of this yet.

sandra hagan said...

super duper good shot. he was raising a ruckuss! adorable!!!