Grouse mismatch


I have gently poked fun at the Ruffed Grouse a few times because it always behaves as if it is well camouflaged in the brush. So, even when it is on snow or gravel, it walks very slowly feigning that its plumage is nothing but a shifting pattern of dappled sunlight in the undergrowth.

However, its unchanging behaviour is not its only ineptitude when it comes to camouflage. It also has its plumage to deal with. 

The Ruffed Grouse comes in a few different colour morphs (that is, colour forms), but the two primary ones are: grey (found primarily in the north), red (found primarily in the south). The grey seems to be best adapted to hiding in snow; the red seems best adapted to hiding in foliage.  We get both forms here. But, what is a red-morph Ruffed Grouse to do when it encounters snow? If a coyote appears, it has just lost the lottery. And what is a grey-morph Ruffed Grouse to do when it is amidst leaves. It is, alas, irreconcilably visible. 

The latter was the case this week when our local grey-morph Ruffed Grouse attempted to hide amidst the fall foliage — alas, it was starkly visible. It is interesting that the grouse has as much trouble adapting its plumage as it does adapting its behaviour.

A grey-morph grouse stands out amidst the fall foliage, but it will blend better come winter.


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2 Responses to Grouse mismatch

  1. birthe says:

    But it still used to give me a fright when it suddenly came when I was walking. Obviously I was not keeping an eye out for a grouse

  2. Shirleen Smith says:

    My orange cat has a similar problem. He’s almost invisible in the fall leaves, otherwise quite obvious.

    Thanks for pointing out the 2 morphs of grouse in these parts. I thought I might be seeing a ruffed grouse (red-morph) and a spruce grouse (probably a grey-morph ruffed grouse).

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