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Ruffed Grouse Roosts and Scat

1-30-13 grouse beds & scat IMG_2420A trail of ruffed grouse tracks in the snow led me to the spot where two grouse had bedded down for the night behind a fallen tree. With snow too shallow to burrow into, this was as protected a location as they could find. More often than not, a grouse defecates in its night roosting site before leaving in the morning. Grouse scat comes in two forms, one a dry, fibrous cylindrical pellet with a white-wash of uric acid at one end, and the other a softer, darker brown plop. The vast majority of a grouse’s diet (buds, twigs, leaves, catkins) goes directly through its digestive system and forms the dry, courser scat. Finer (and more nutritious) material such as the cambium layer of woody plants enters the caeca, two specialized pouches, before passing through the large intestine. The caeca contain bacteria which break down cellulose and produce the more digested, and therefore more liquefied, scat. Sometimes the two kinds of scat are deposited separately and sometimes, as in the bed on the right in the photograph, together. (Thanks to Dr. Alcott Smith who clarified grouse digestion for me.)

9 responses

  1. Marie Kirn

    Kudos to you and to Alcott Smith. I like your word “plop!” And your blog. M

    January 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    • My choice of scatological descriptive words is not exactly that of an academician, is it, Marie? Perhaps I spent too many days on dairy farms!

      January 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

  2. I like the way you can so clearly make out the body imprints here in the snow. I will be looking for those next time I’m out rambling in the woods!

    January 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

  3. Tarun

    What great information to look forward to each day! You have a wonderful way of condensing the info. I, too, shall be on watch in the woods for signs of the grouse.

    January 30, 2013 at 3:36 pm

  4. There are so many signs to watch for. Thanks for all the info on grouse signs.

    January 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm

  5. You are incredible, Mary. Thanks so much for your fascinating tidbits. Receiving this information in blog form – a little at a time – with a wonderful picture makes it so much easier to digest. (And no puns intended by my choice of words!)

    January 30, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    • Thank you so much, Irma. I’m thrilled that there are others like you who are as fascinated by the natural world as I am, and it’s my pleasure to share my discoveries with you.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

  6. Funny to hear your explanation on the different types of grouse scat, Mary. I did a hike with Alcott a few weeks ago and heard the same explanation, and when I read yours I thought, “Wow, these naturalists are impressive to know so much about grouse crap! Where have I been?!”

    January 31, 2013 at 2:52 am

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