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What Is the State Bird of Pennsylvania?

The state bird of Pennsylvania is the Ruffed Grouse, a resilient species known for its distinctive drumming sounds and agility in wooded habitats. Adopted in 1931, this bird symbolizes the state's rich natural heritage and its commitment to conservation. How does the Ruffed Grouse reflect Pennsylvania's culture and environment? Join us as we explore the significance of this feathered emblem.
Rebecca Cartwright
Rebecca Cartwright

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.

The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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.

Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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.

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Discussion Comments


My grandmother is from the Pennsylvania and she recently introduced me to the Pennsylvania state bird and flower. I actually thought that the ruffled grouse was quite plain looking, but I suppose the PA state bird is better known for its tasty meat rather than anything else.

As far as the Pennsylvania state bird's name goes I thought it was rather cute. I honestly though the bird would be a lot fluffier than it actually is. I suppose it is just as unique as any other state bird when it comes down to it. At least now I can explain to anyone who asks me about the bird mug my grandmother gave me.


@drtroubles - The ruffed grouse is so common you shouldn't have much trouble spotting it at any of the forests, though the northwest and north-central counties are excellent hunting spots, so I imagine you can get some great photos in. Just check hunting schedules to make sure you don't go wandering through the forest at the wrong time of year.

While Pennsylvania's state bird is known for its showy courtship the truth is it lasts just a few moments so you may have trouble catching a pair in the moment. Your best bet maybe to try and find a place with a pair in captivity as it will save you a lot of disappointment if you want great photos.


I'm a bit of a beginner bird watcher and am wondering what is the Pennsylvania state bird's regular nesting ground?

I would like to get a few photos of the Pennsylvania state bird during their courtship and nesting stages but am not sure the best place to spot them. I have family in Pennsylvania so I don't mind making the drive to see the ruffled grouse in its natural habitat.

Of course, I want to make sure to avoid prime hunting spots as I don't want to see the bird meet its maker. I am only into digital shooting and don't really have an urge to hunt.

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    • The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
      The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    • Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
      By: Gino Santa Maria
      Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.