Ruffed Grouse

Photo of ruffed grouse standing on a log
Species of Conservation Concern
Scientific Name
Bonasa umbellus
Phasianidae (pheasants) in the order Galliformes

The ruffed grouse is a chickenlike bird has brown, rufous, and gray color morphs. Adults are streaked above and barred below; females generally have darker barring than males. The tail has a dark bar near the tip, but females lack the dark band on central tail feathers. Both sexes have a dark ruff on the neck; the male uses the ruff in spring to display to females. There is also a crest atop the head, though it sometimes lies flat.


Length: 17 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

Where To Find
Ruffed Grouse Distribution Map

Rare and local permanent resident statewide in appropriate habitat; most occur in the Ozark Border region.

Ruffed Grouse are found in forested landscapes, in areas with a thick, brushy undergrowth of shrubs and/or saplings. Habitat loss is a primary reason their numbers have declined. They require different specific habitats during different parts of their seasonal cycle. The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to assist landowners to provide the habitat grouse need for food, cover, breeding, drumming, nesting, and overwintering.

Primary foods include green leafy plants and various seeds and fruits such as wild grapes, tick trefoil, rosehips, sumac berries, bittersweet, sedges, and bush clovers. Chicks feed mainly on insects to meet their high protein and energy requirements. In winter, grouse feed on wild fruits and acorns, but the catkins of hop hornbeam trees are a major winter staple.

Rare permanent resident. Restoration efforts have had some success. A species of conservation concern in Missouri.

Life Cycle

Males perform distinctive courtship displays at dawn and dusk in April, usually standing on a fallen log and making rapid forward wingbeats, which creates a low, pumping noise, with accelerating speed. Females are ground-nesters, usually laying about 6–8 eggs.

Ruffed grouse are a favorite of hunters, in part because the birds are challenging, being difficult to see and preferring thick brush.

Habitat improvements implemented to boost grouse populations are good for numerous other species of plants and animals as well.

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About Birds in Missouri

About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 have been recorded within our borders. Most people know a bird when they see one — it has feathers, wings, and a bill. Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs (often in a nest), and the parents care for the young. Many communicate with songs and calls.