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Ruffed Grouse

Pennsylvania State Bird

Scientific Name: Bonasa umbellus
Season and Limit: Seasons and Bag Limits / Falconry Season


Grouse – the Need for Habitat
Ruffed Grouse Habitat Management
From the Coverts - Fall 2014
Ruffed Grouse Management Plan


Ruffed Grouse Bulletin
Research Bulletin – SGL 176: Scotia Barrens

How You Can Help

Become a Ruffed Grouse Cooperator

Grouse Nests - GPS Locations Needed

In April and May 2015, Lisa Williams (Game Commission grouse biologist) will be seeking location information for all grouse nests observed in Pennsylvania. A small number of wild-collected eggs (from just 3 - 5 nests) are needed to begin a study of grouse and West Nile virus.

If you're spending time in the woods this spring, please be on the lookout for grouse nests. Whether you are bird watching, running your dogs, scouting for spring gobblers, trout fishing, or just enjoying a day in the woods, you might find a nest. If so, please immediately report GPS location to Lisa via email (liswilliam@pa.gov)

PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB NESTS and DO NOT COLLECT EGGS. Collecting eggs is a violation of the Pennsylvania Game Code. Simply report GPS location.

Some additional info:

  1. WHERE to Look for Grouse Nests: Grouse hens prefer to nest in mature forest edges surrounding 5- to 15-year-old young forest patches, scrub oak areas, thick shrubland, and gated forest roads. While male grouse like high-density saplings with overhead cover, hens tend to nest in more open forest with rather open understory conditions so they can keep a lookout from the nest. Nests are often placed against the base of a ‘backstop’ – a large tree trunk, root tip up, or even rock face.
  2. WHEN to Look for Grouse Nests:  Hens will begin laying in mid-April. Incubation begins in the first week of May. The Game Commission seeks nest location info for all nests found in April and May.
  3. HOW to Look for Grouse Nests: If you encounter a grouse flush in suitable open woods habitat near a forest edge, a quick check of the bases of large trees and rocks for nests may be worthwhile.
  4. HOW to Identify Grouse Nests/Eggs: See the information sheet on distinguishing grouse nests and eggs from those of turkeys. Grouse nests will be at the base of a larger object and not typically covered. Turkey nests are often placed under cover of vines, brambles, logs or brush. Grouse eggs are cream-colored and about the size of ping pong balls or golf balls. Turkey eggs are the size of jumbo/XL chicken eggs, pointed at one end, and speckled with brown mottling. Turkey nest information is NOT needed at this time.  
  5. WHAT TO DO When a Nest is Spotted: Get GPS location of nest and relay to Lisa Williams, Game Commission at liswilliam@pa.gov. She will follow up with you to get additional information if needed.

Thanks for your continued support of Pennsylvania's game bird management programs!

Lisa M. Williams, Wildlife Biologist - Grouse, Woodcock, Mourning Doves
PA Game Commission

Send Us Your Grouse Feathers!

The Game Bird Section has initiated a statewide study of grouse recruitment. In wildlife management terms, 'recruitment' refers to the recruitment of young animals into a population and is an important driver of population trends.

Grouse population declines have been documented throughout Pennsylvania and appear to be especially pronounced in the state's southern regions. By replicating a recruitment study conducted in Pennsylvania during the 1970s and 1980s, we can determine if grouse recruitment has changed over time in northern and/or southern Pennsylvania.

For this study, hunters are asked to submit the 3 outer primary wing feathers ("flight feathers") or the entire wing, a central tail feather, and 2 to 3 rump feathers, along with harvest location information. The goal is to collect a representative sample of harvested birds from throughout the state, with at least 1,000 samples in total. This is an ambitious goal and we need your help!

Grouse Feather Collection Survey – If any member of your party harvests a grouse, please submit the following feather samples: one entire wing (or 3 outer flight feathers), 1 central tail feather, 2 to 3 rump feathers (see instructions and diagram). Enclose feathers in an envelope. Provide your NAME/PHONE, COUNTY OF KILL, TOWNSHIP and WMU OF KILL, AND DATE OF KILL on the backside of the envelope. DO NOT mix different birds in one envelope. Submit feathers from one grouse in one envelope. If you do not wish to send a tail feather, please send rump and wing feathers anyway. Those feathers still provide important information.

Plan Your Hunt!

October 2014 - Just in time for upland bird hunting season, DCNR Bureau of Forestry released an online mapping tool that shows locations of recent timber harvests (since 2005), young aspen, thermal cover, herbaceous openings and other features of interest to hunters. The map includes GPS and measurement tools to enable hunters to find the best routes to sites on state forest lands. The site can be viewed here http://maps.dcnr.pa.gov/bof/huntmap/index.html

The Game Commission also has an online tool for planning trips on Game Lands: Game Commission Mapping Center

Related Links

Ruffed Grouse Society
The Young Forest Project

No portlets in this column.
Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797