Grousing about stupid chickens

Have you ever wondered why there are so many grouse?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many grouse?

When you consider their behaviour patterns, you’d think there would be fewer, but somehow they seem to thrive.

The mating seasons of the ruffed and blue grouses ended on Vancouver Island the last month or so and calling them out isn’t much of a challenge.

Listen for the ventriloquistic courtship call of the blue, or the throbbing put-put-put-purr of the ruffed, then follow up with your own practised renditions of mating calls to be challenged, honing in on their hooting or drumming log.

With the blue use your throat or, for the ruffed, thump the ground with your fist to stimulate a challenge.

Both blue and ruffed will come out to challenge in full bloom.

They will literally walk up and, somewhere in their decision making process, realize they’re overmatched and wander back to their log.

For young birders they’re reasonably easy calls to learn and the enjoyment on the kids’ faces when the males approach is a thrill.

Female birds with young have a range of behaviour patterns; the ruffed pretends to have a broken wing to draw you away from the chicks. Or the blue, which on occasion will freeze on the spot much like its cousin the spruce grouse, referred to as a “fool hen” or, in Alaska, referred to as “stupid chickens.”

They’ll also fly up into your face to distract you from the chicks.

Coming from Woss the other day we spotted a hen with six chicks frozen alongside  the road.

We were literally on top of the hen when it attacked our grill, it was a virtual atomic explosion of feathers.

Pulling over, knowing there was no chance of survival, it was still shocking to discover no body, just feathers.

We observed, with dread, the chicks scurry away into the underbrush. We knew their fate was sealed, but  part of us wanted to believe the hen had somehow survived and they would live happily ever after. That assisted in soothing the guilt.

Fifty per cent of the world’s blue grouse population resides in B.C. in numbers ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million, with the greatest abundance found on Vancouver Island.

Blue grouse are vertical migrators like mountain caribou, not as spectacular as the porcupine caribou migration, but if you ever wander upon one, it’s a thrill nonetheless. Surrounded sometimes by hundreds of birds, it’s something you will never forget.

During summer months hens and chicks will forage on berries and plants until late in the season.

Then they’ll begin to migrate towards heavy forested areas, the movement of one group triggers others to follow; it becomes a smorgasbord of grouse. Again interesting behaviour: in winter, when grouse are burrowed in the snow to protect themselves from the elements, they’ll attack snowmobiles — it’s happened twice to this camper.

Stupid chickens.

 

 

Just Posted

North Island Tour De Rock rider Benjamin Leah leads team to Port Hardy

“You don’t have issues and problems when you look at these kids and how much they’re going through.”

North Island local elections face a number of acclamations

Alert Bay, Sayward, and Zeballos have unopposed mayoral elections

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Fishin’ Corner: Stand up for your fishing rights

“Don’t give in to DFO and their quota bureaucracy that the fish belong to everyone.”

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

VIDEO: Tour de Rock rider says event provides badly needed support

Cancer survivor and volunteer firefighter Nicole Emery speaks about importance of fundraising tour

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

Island man calls 911 after being robbed of his drugs

Nineteen-year-old and 15-year-old suspects face multiple charges following robbery Monday in Nanaimo

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

Most Read