Upland Game Birds • Minnesota’s upland game birds include ruffed, spruce, and sharp-tailed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, turkey, woodcock, and the gray partridge.
The sharp tailed grouse and the prairie chicken in the open grasslands in summer and brush/woodlots in winter
Bobwhite quail are no longer hunted in MN • Prairie Chicken lottery (186 in 2010)
Upland Game Birds The gray partridge (Hungarian partridge or Huns) and the Pheasant were both introduced.
Upland Game Birds • The wild turkey has been reintroduced
Upland Game Birds • Ruffed Grouse • The ruffed grouse gets its name from the ruffs on the sides of its neck. • Ruffs are present on both sexes but are larger in the male than the female. • Ruffed grouse are mistakenly called “ruffled grouse”
Upland Game Birds • Of 1000 chicks hatched in a year • 45% survive one year • 19% survive two years • 8% survive three years • 4% survive four years • 1% will survive five years • Up to 55% of the fall population die during 1st winter • Hunters take a portion of this 55%.
Upland Game Birds • Characteristics • The ruffed grouse is about half the size of a pheasant. • Weighing between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds. • The grouse is noted for its fan shaped tail marked by a broad, dark band.
Upland Game Birds • Camouflage is its best protection against predators • Uses patterns and mixtures of browns, blacks, whites, and grays
Upland Game Birds • During winter grouse rely on snow roosts to survive from the cold.
Upland Game Birds • Grouse dive or burrow into deep fluffy snow • Temps can be 20-30 degrees warmer than the air temperature • Also protected from the wind • Winters with little/no snow are hard on grouse survival rates
Upland Game Birds • Grouse wings are short and wide, and cup shaped • Allows them to be a very fast flier, but only for short distances. • Grouses bill is adapted for eating buds, twigs, berries, seeds, and leaves.
Upland Game Birds • Color Phases • Many species of wildlife have various color phases. • Red fox can be red, black, or crossed. • black bear can be black or brown. • Grouse also have color phases • There is a red phase, a gray phase, and a mixture phase.
Upland Game Birds • An individuals bird’s color phase is partly controlled by genetics • Gray more common in northern part of the range. • Red in southern end
Upland Game Birds • Determining Male/Female • The sex of a ruffed grouse can be determined by looking at the tail feathers. • Check the band on the two middle tail feathers • Complete band = male • Incomplete band = female
Upland Game Birds • Another method is to pluck feathers from the lower back of the grouse. Count the number of white dots. • Females one dot while • Males have two or more.
Upland Game Birds • Determining Age • Ruffed grouse are separated into three age classes. • Chicks, juveniles, and adults • Chicks hatch in May or June and are noticeably smaller that the adults until they are about 10 or 12 weeks old. • Ruffed grouse are capable of breeding at one year of age; then considered adults.
Upland Game Birds • Outermost flight feathers are a key to determining age. • Grouse have 10 major flight feathers, called primaries, on each wing.
Upland Game Birds • Habitat • Aspen-birch hardwood forest is typical grouse habitat in MN, • Alder and patches of gray dogwood are used by grouse in summer and fall.
Upland Game Birds • Management • Aspen buds are primarily winter food for grouse and young aspen are important cover for broods • To benefit grouse it is important to maintain aspen forest of three ages • Stands of suckers less than 10 years old for brood cover • Trees 10-25 years old for wintering and breeding cover. • Older aspen for food, wintering, and nesting cover.
Upland Game Birds • IDEAL HABITAT can produce 1 bird every 1.25 acres • Average habitat will have 1 every 4 acres • Poor habitat will have 1 every10 acres
Upland Game Birds • History • Ruffed grouse are solitary. • A male grouse normally occupies a territory by October of his first fall. • Territory area covers about 60 acres. • Usually each hen will range over territories of two or three males
Upland Game Birds • Drumming can be heard at all times of the year • In mid April, drumming becomes more active. • Males advertise their location to interest hens, and their territory to other males. • Drumming reaches a peak about the last week in April
Upland Game Birds • Brood • After mating, hens disperse to find a nesting site, which may be ½ mile from where they mated • Nests are in an open forest near mature male aspen • Hen will lay 10 – 14 eggs at a rate of about 2 every 3 days
Upland Game Birds • The eggs hatch after about 23 days of incubation. • Males play no role in nesting or caring for the brood. • For the first couple of weeks the chicks feed almost entirely on insects and then eat plant material
Upland Game Birds • It takes 16 weeks to become fully grown. • Toward the end of Sept broods break up and the young scatter • Early season hunters may find broods together before dispersal, or fall shuffle.
Upland Game Birds • Winter food consists primarily of the male catkins or flower buds of several species, aspen being most important. • Sharp Shinned, Cooper’s Hawk and great horned owls are probably their biggest predators.
Upland Game Birds • Whether hunted or not hunted the grouse population usually drops about 55% though winter. • About every 10 years they become very abundant and then decline sharply over a period of two or three years • Over the past ½ century peak populations have usually occurred in years ending in 1, 2, 3 and the bottom of the cycle in years ending in 5, 6, 7.
Upland Game Birds • Reasons for grouse in population cycles have not been determined. • In good habitat, fluctuation is less • Hunting does not seem to affect grouse population cycles.