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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Bonasa umbellus

Common Name:
Ruffed Grouse


Bitterroot Mountains, Idaho   September 20, 1805

Like a bison (Bonasa)

A familiar bird of the northern and alpine forests of North America, the ruffed grouse is often heard rather than seen.  By beating their cupped-shaped wings downward, males create a very low-pitched drumming sound that travels long distances.  The pitch is so low it is almost imperceptible, and yet when heard, it feels like the source is alongside oneself.  This can produce an eerie feeling.

The dark band near the tail extremity, and the ruff of black neck feathers with a green metallic tinge (the umbellus) distinguish this grouse from other North American species.  This bird prefers walking on the ground to flying from place to place, even during winter months.  The bristled feet are particularly well 'designed' for walking on top of the snow.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, Sept 20, 1805--[Saw] three species of Pheasants…a brown and yellow species that a goodeel resembles the phesant common to the ...  more>>

References Linné, Carl von, Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, Cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis, ed. 12, 3 vols in 4 parts, Holmiae, impensis direct. L. Salvii, 1766

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Ruffed grouse specimen, female, collected May 6, 1977

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Ruffed grouse tail. Two central feathers with weak banding indicate the specimen is female.

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Ruffed grouse feet showing comb-like bristles known as pectinations, which are an adaptation for walking on snow.

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Ruffed grouse illustrated by Alexander Wilson

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Female ruffed grouse, Eagle Mountain, Minnesota.

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Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

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