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Ruffed Grouse Drumming

3-22-16 ruffed grouse IMG_0778A majority of male passerines, or perching birds (also called songbirds) claim territories and secure mates through song.   With the help of a syrinx, or voice box, musical notes, some more complex than others, are created.  There are species of birds in different orders that use other parts of their bodies for territorial and courtship displays, among them ruffed grouse (wings), American woodcock (wings) and Wilson’s snipe (tail).

Male ruffed grouse, also known as partridge, are aggressively territorial throughout their adult lives, defending roughly 6-10 acres of woodland which is usually shared with one or two hens. The male grouse claims his property by engaging in a “drumming” display during which he creates a sound reminiscent of a lawn mower starting up. This sound is made by the male beating his wings against the air to create a vacuum, as lightning does when it makes thunder. The drummer usually stands on a log, stone or mound of dirt roughly 10-12 inches above the ground when drumming and this substrate is called a “drumming log.” He does not strike the log to make the noise, he only uses the drumming log as a stage for his display.

Grouse occasionally drum in the summer and fall, but in the spring, drumming becomes more frequent and prolonged as the male advertises his location to hens seeking a mate.  This phenomenon is heard but rarely seen by humans; Lang Elliott has captured both the sight and sound of a ruffed grouse drumming in this extraordinary video:    (Sound recording © Lang Elliott –

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13 responses

  1. Diane

    Interesting, thanks for the video!

    March 22, 2016 at 8:12 am

  2. Bill Farr

    Outstanding audio/video on the grouse drumming Mary. The ravens crowing in the background add to the natural elements within that environment beautifully. I have heard this ritual most every year of my life and this is the first time I have actually seen it!
    Thanks for sharing this.

    PS: I have always had a healthy population of grouse on my property here in the highlands of Corinth and the entire surrounding area as well. Often when I walk in the woods I have come very close to stepping on them only to have them fly out in front of me and causing my heart to skip a beat!

    March 22, 2016 at 8:54 am

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Bill. I think it’s the most incredible video I may have ever seen. Such a treat that Lang Elliott has allowed us the privilege of seeing what we’ve heard all our lives!

      March 22, 2016 at 9:30 am

  3. Viola

    Incredible! Marvelous! I remember learning years ago that the starting lawn mower was, in fact, a bird, a Ruffed Grouse. These close-up videos are amazing. What energy those rapid wing beats must take! Thanks for sharing such wonderment!

    March 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

  4. Oh my goodness, this video is stunning! I must say that that gorgeous fellow has my heart thumping! Thanks for sharing this, Mary and Lang!

    March 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

  5. Looking forward to hearing them in my woods any day now! Great capture of this handsome bird, Mary.

    March 22, 2016 at 7:38 pm

  6. Kathie Fiveash


    March 22, 2016 at 8:27 pm

  7. Kathie Fiveash

    I was also thinking about woodpeckers, which are not passerines, and how they express themselves with drumming.

    March 22, 2016 at 9:25 pm

  8. this was wonderful to watch and hear

    March 22, 2016 at 9:35 pm

  9. Reblogged this on Partridge, Pine, and Peavey and commented:
    The techniques and rationale behind partridge drumming, thanks to the amazing Mary Holland.

    March 23, 2016 at 6:48 am

  10. katie

    I think its is the foam from the river that froze into circles

    March 23, 2016 at 11:26 am

  11. Simon Perkins

    Yeah I saw that. It was so cool.

    March 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

  12. Jean Harrison

    Super-wonderful video. Thank you.

    March 25, 2016 at 11:49 pm

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