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Ruffed Grouse Snow Cave

2-18-14 grouse hole 023When snow depth is over 10” Ruffed Grouse are known to dive into it and often burrow a short distance in order to seek refuge from the wind and the cold as well as from predators, a behavior known as “snow roosting.” Because the grouse flies into the snow leaving no tracks and little scent, predators have difficulty detecting them. The major risk is freezing rain which can form a crust on top of the snow, trapping the grouse. The Ruffed Grouse’s behavior allows it to conserve a great deal of energy, as the temperature inside this roost rarely falls beneath 20°F. This conservation of energy translates into less time spent up in trees eating buds, exposed to hawks and other predators. When morning comes, the grouse usually bursts out of the snow, leaving a hole and wing marks, or, as in this case, shuffles its way to the surface of the snow before taking off. The presence of scat indicates that the left-hand cavity in this photograph is where the bird bedded down and its exit was made to the right. (Thanks to Edith Hoose for photo op.)

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6 responses

  1. Dianne and Ed

    WOW!! About how deep is the snow cave? Thanks for your reply, Dianne

    February 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    • Most of the ones I’ve found have been 8″ to 12″ beneath the surface of the snow, Dianne.

      February 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

  2. Fascinating what I learn here! Thanks!

    February 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

  3. This gives new meaning to “bed and bath”!

    February 19, 2014 at 7:42 pm

  4. Alt

    Great write up! I have a friendly grouse who live in out forest who does this. I’ve yet to capture the moment when he bursts out though, but I’m still trying! XD

    February 6, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    • I have yet to see that, either, but I am hopeful every time I go out!

      February 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

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