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Ruffed Grouse on Nests

ruffed grouse on nest  020A Ruffed Grouse’s nest is pretty basic – just a shallow bowl on the forest floor, created by the hen grouse tossing leaves over her shoulder and having them fall on her back, slip down to the ground and form a bowl. Ruffed Grouse lay anywhere from 9 to 14 eggs at intervals of 25 to 30 hours, which means it takes about two weeks for a hen to lay an average clutch of 11 eggs. Each of her eggs weighs about 4 percent of her body weight — the entire clutch will be equal to about half of her weight. Once incubation starts (when the last egg is laid) the hen’s behavior goes from wandering around and feeding voraciously, to sitting on the nest and barely moving. Because of this behavior, as well as her cryptic coloration, an incubating Ruffed Grouse hen is much more likely to see you before you see her. She will stay motionless on her nest, even in the face of danger, hiding her eggs. Once she is certain she has been spotted, she will fly off the nest, exposing her eggs. Foxes, crows, ravens, chipmunks, skunks, bobcats and raccoons are some of the predators responsible for the loss of 25% – 40% of grouse nests each year. After the precocial Ruffed Grouse chicks hatch during the first two weeks of June, they will be led away from the nest site by the hen. Within 24 hours they will be feeding on insects and within a week they may double their weight! (Thanks to Ginny Barlow for photo op.)

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10 responses

  1. I stumbled across a hen just like this on Tuesday while out monitoring in Taylor Valley with Paul Harwood. I posted a photo on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UpperValleyLandTrust

    May 29, 2014 at 11:16 am

    • Amazing that you saw her before she saw you! Wonderful photo!

      May 29, 2014 at 11:45 am

  2. How long is the incubation period? And do the eggs hatch one by one, in the order they were laid? If so, it seems there would be two particularly vulnerable periods for the eggs: the first when the earliest eggs have been laid but incubation has not yet begun, the second when the earliest eggs have hatched but later eggs remain on the now-unguarded nest.

    May 29, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    • Hi Wendy,
      Incubation is 23-24 days, and all of the chicks hatch within 24 hours, but you’re right, the couple of weeks while the eggs are being laid and the adult isn’t present most of the time is a very vulnerable time.

      May 30, 2014 at 10:31 am

  3. (I’m leaving this additional “comment” because I forgot to check the box that I wanted to be notified of follow-up comments via email when I left my comment just above.)

    May 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    • Hope you received notice that I responded to your first comment!

      May 30, 2014 at 10:31 am

      • I did indeed receive emails with your replies to my comments, as well as Eliza’s. Thanks so much for all you’ve taught me since I first subscribed to your blog last May! I look forward to your posts every day.

        May 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm

  4. Do you know if the males drum all summer or only during breeding season?

    May 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

    • Eliza, drumming can occur at any time of year. Peak drumming activity is in the spring, usually late Apr or early May . Midsummer is often the quietest time for drumming. Drumming increases as the September equinox approaches, with October being the peak month in autumn for drumming. Ruffed Grouse may drum sporadically throughout the winter.

      May 30, 2014 at 10:26 am

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