Monday, December 9, 2013
By Ken Allen
(Continued from page 1)
Mainers who have watched immature grouse sit on a birch limb to feed in late fall and winter see firsthand what a nuisance and danger it is for this bird to sit on a slender, bouncy birch limb to feed. Grouse flutter like mad to keep their balance, drawing predator attention.
Observant birders can determine the sex of ruffed grouse by looking at the dark bar near the outside edge of the tail fan.
On females, the two middle feathers (called retrices) have a more fuzzy, dark band that breaks the continuous black line, while the male's band remains dark and clear without the interruption in the middle.
Exceptions to the sexing rule do exist, though, and in my youth, people believed that a fuzzy line band in the middle always denoted a female. Some males have the fuzzy break in the bar, though.
Where grouse see few to no hunters, they are extremely trusting -- so folks often call them fool hens. Where hunting pressure is intense, though, these bird are uncanny in their ability to escape hunters.
Anyone who does not believe in evolution should start studying ruffed grouse. It turns folks into believers of Darwin's studies.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: