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Ruffed Grouse Crop Contents

Some birds, especially those that eat seeds, buds, leaves and nuts, such as ruffed grouse, eat food very rapidly, faster than it can be passed through the digestive system.  These birds usually have a pouch-like crop where food is stored to be digested later, when the birds are not out in the open, susceptible to predators.  (see 10-24-12 Naturally Curious post)  This rapid consumption and storage of food by grouse, often at dawn and dusk, is referred to as “budding.”  Examining the contents of road-killed grouse crops is one way of learning more about this adaptive behavior.  Assuming some of my readers might (?) share my curiosity about the diet of grouse, I occasionally post the contents of a grouse crop I’ve recently examined.   My most recent dissection revealed that the grouse had switched from its herbaceous summer diet to its more woody winter diet — its crop contained no less than 232 male birch flower buds, or catkins.  (Disclaimer:  This crop was not that of the grouse that was the subject of the 11-9-12 post.)

10 responses

  1. Dexter

    How on earth do they get those catkins? Do they shinny out to the ends of the bouncy birch branches? Do they only grab the ones they can reach from the ground or from perches on sturdy branches below catkin bearing branches?

    November 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

    • I think both of your theories are correct, Dexter. They do balance themselves on mighty thin branches, but they also are good at craning their necks to reach buds above them and to the sides. Either way, it’s a tricky business. The growths/pectinations on either side of their toes that appear in the fall and disappear in the spring help them not slip on icy branches in the winter.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

  2. doug Fogal

    Great info and a welcomed interlude to the days hectic tasks. Warmest regards, Doug Fogal (husband of Barbara Gorss, Harvard Mass.)

    November 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

  3. Thanks so much, Doug. Receiving a comment like yours makes getting my fingers numb on a cold winter day worth it! By the way, I’m headed to Harvard to give a Warner Free Lecture on April 26, 2013 at the library. Hope to see you there!

    November 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  4. Just a quick question: are the birch catkins the grouse eat next year’s buds? If so, is the fact that they are eating them harmful to the tree? Love your emails! Keep on unearthing info for us! Love it!

    November 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  5. I think you can safely assume we’re as interested as you are int he diets of pretty much anything! I’m always fascinated to learn the crop or stomach contents of local animals! 🙂

    November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  6. And I’m always fascinated with the contents of scat or pellets as well. Your efforts are well received on all accounts.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm

  7. Heidi

    So the crop is a bag, where nothing related to digestion occurs. The contents in the photo are beautiful and clean.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

  8. Melzine Young

    I found an injured grouse what should I feed it to nurse it back to health Discovered in San Antonio Texas

    May 29, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    • I’d look for a wildlife rehabilitator…meanwhile they eat aspen buds, ferns, leaves of many ground plants.

      June 1, 2020 at 11:39 am

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