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The state bird of Pennsylvania is Bonasa umbellus, the ruffed grouse. A relative of turkeys, quail, and pheasants, the ruffed grouse is found across much of North America, particularly in very cold areas. Most grouse are brown with white, gray, and black markings. The species is best known for the striking courtship displays put on by males during the breeding season. It was named the state bird of Pennsylvania in 1931.
In the early part of the 1900s, the bird was at a peak population in the state. It thrives in brushy areas at the edge of forests, and where new growth is beginning after logging. By the early 1900s, all the old growth timber in Pennsylvania had been cut, so forest areas with small trees and lots of brush were common. At the end of that century, the forests of Pennsylvania were more mature so the ruffed grouse, while still common, was not as dominant among forest birds as it had once been.
Adult grouse usually weigh 17 to 25 ounces (about 470 to 780 grams) and are 15.5 to 19 inches (about 39 to 48 cm) long. They have a wingspan of 22 to 25 inches (about 56 to 63.5 cm.) Adult plumage is brown, with white and black spots on the back, and white with brown bars on the breast. The ruff is a band of long black or chocolate-brown feathers around the neck. In some areas, the ruffed grouse has more gray or reddish coloring.
Frequently hunted, the ruffled grouse is legally the state game bird, rather than simply state bird of Pennsylvania. In addition to being popular for hunting, the grouse draws many bird watchers each year with extensive courtship displays. The males fluff up their ruffs until they stand out around their necks, fan out their tails, and make a hissing noise while dragging their wingtips along the ground. They also make a very loud noise, called drumming, by standing on a rock or fallen tree and repeatedly flapping their wings with a strong downward motion.
Though the ruffed grouse is the state bird of Pennsylvania, it is found in many other parts of North America. Its range includes all of Canada and the U.S. states bordering the Great Lakes. They are typically found at higher altitudes. Isolated populations do exist in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. The bird is well adapted to winter conditions, and can survive much harsher years than other similar birds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the state bird of Pennsylvania?
The state bird of Pennsylvania is the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). It was designated as the official state bird in 1931. The Ruffed Grouse is known for its distinctive drumming sound, which the male produces by beating its wings to attract a mate. This bird is native to Pennsylvania and is admired for its adaptability to the state's diverse habitats.
Why was the Ruffed Grouse chosen as Pennsylvania's state bird?
The Ruffed Grouse was chosen as Pennsylvania's state bird due to its prevalence throughout the state and its embodiment of the spirit of Pennsylvania's wilderness. Its ability to thrive in the state's varied forested regions, from the Appalachian Mountains to the northern hardwood forests, made it an ideal symbol for Pennsylvania's natural beauty and rich wildlife.
Where can one typically find the Ruffed Grouse in Pennsylvania?
The Ruffed Grouse can typically be found in the wooded areas of Pennsylvania, especially in young forests with a mix of trees and shrubs. They prefer habitats that offer thick ground cover for protection and nesting. The Allegheny National Forest and state game lands provide ideal environments for observing these birds in their natural setting.
What are some distinguishing features of the Ruffed Grouse?
The Ruffed Grouse is known for its mottled brown, gray, and black plumage, which provides excellent camouflage in its woodland habitat. It has a crest on its head and a ruff of feathers around its neck, which can be fanned out during courtship displays. The bird is medium-sized, about the size of a chicken, and is also recognized for its unique tail with a dark band near the tip.
How does the Ruffed Grouse contribute to Pennsylvania's ecosystem?
The Ruffed Grouse plays a significant role in Pennsylvania's ecosystem as both a predator and prey. It helps control insect populations and disperses seeds through its diet of leaves, fruits, and insects. As prey, it supports predators such as foxes, hawks, and owls. Its presence indicates a healthy, diverse forest ecosystem, which is crucial for the overall environmental balance in Pennsylvania.