Ruffed Grouse--Might Be Gross For Some

Warning: The photos in this post are of a dead ruffed grouse and might be a tad gross for some sensitive readers or those eating while surfing the net.

We're having a great grouse year in Minnesota. Is it better habitat or just part of the normal grouse cycle or a little of both? I'm not sure, but grouse hunters seemed to be pleased this year. Normally I only hear grouse drumming or when I do see them they are flying away or look like this:


A bird hidden in a thicket of branches. It's not often I get an up close view. To give you an idea of what grouse look like, here's a Bill Schmoker photo of a ruffed grouse.


The other day in Duluth, I found this pile of fluff right next to my car in the grass (I was on a gravel road). At first glance it looked like some odd plant matter blowing in the breeze. I picked it up and realized they were the soft feathers of a grouse. I few feet away I found the head, spine, legs, feet and crop--all still attached.


It was a fairly clean carcass with no visible shredding, so my guess is that the grouse taken by a hunter and was dressed in the field. I saw someone down the road bow hunting, it could have been him. So, I took the opportunity to study what was left in hand. Note the tiny red feathers just above the eye.


The tail had a broken band, so I think this was a female.


I was really fascinated by the feet. Look at that bristling on each toe. I was talking to Larry about this and he said that those are to help the grouse walk on top of the snow.


Here is the crop. This is kind of a holding area many birds have to store and soften food (a full crop is what gives some raptors a "Dolly Parton" appearance). It was see through and very full. Look at all those seeds, and what I thought was really interesting was what looked like plant materials.


I decided to open it and see what was in there. I had no idea ruffed grouse ate so much plant material. Larry calls this "salad". Anyone care to try an id the seeds or the leaf matter?

Who knew grouse parts could be so interesting?