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Thread: Ruffed Grouse eating spruce needles?

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    Default Ruffed Grouse eating spruce needles?

    A friend of mine on the Kenai sent me some photos last year of a couple of ruffed grouse with crops full of spruce needles. I find this rather strange and interesting behavior. I submitted this topic last year and was wondering if anyone else, either on the Kenai, or elsewhere in Alaska, had ever had the same experience. There wasn't much response then, but in another recent thread a poster indicated he has seen this many times on the Kenai.

    Research indicates that Bump found some ruffed grouse turned to eating spruce needles in his 1949 New York study, but this is all I have ever heard on the subject.

    Once again I'm wondering if any others might share their experiences.

    Thanks!

    Jim

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    Yes they do eat the needles. Particulary fond of Tamarack and Pine. They seem to prefer these over Spruce, when the trees are side by side. They will gather in a tree and strip the limbs bare. Spruce Grouse will do the same.
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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    I thought they were all dead on the pen. Hmmmm... I'd better go looking.

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    Default Science

    Jim et al,

    I spent a couple minutes with Google Scholar this morning.

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3801737
    Seems that ruffed grouse on the fringe of their range take to a wider variety of forage items. In the second column they cite dietary studies of wintering ruffed grouse so it might be worth chasing those down. I'd do it myself but I'm trying to be work productive today, not just productive

    I found a few other papers that talked about consumption of evergreen leaves but they weren't needles like we are talking about here. They do discuss the detoxification demands of attempting to eat that type of forage so perhaps they are analagous?
    Go Big Red!

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    Interesting stuff. From what I've learned in my efforts to determine why spruce grouse begin to eat needles during mid-autumn, long before the snow arrives and covers up other food sources, is because of this detoxification stuff. They need to ease into such a diet.

    I'm thinking it may be only Kenai Peninsula ruffs, birds on the fringe of other more suitable habitat? But then there are willows, Aspen and cottonwood buds to eat down that way just like elsewhere.

    Jim

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    Akres,

    Where are you taking or seeing these ruffed grouse eat needles?

    Thanks,

    Jim

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    Here in Alberta once we get snow and their regular green forage is too deep under the snow both spruce grouse and ruffed grouse turn to pine needles down here.

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    I've taken a few Ruffies in unit 14 that had taken to eating pine needles. Tasted just as good as the rest.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    I moved here from MN a few years ago and we had both Spruce and Ruffed Grouse there too. Seemed the Sprucies prefered pine needles year around, but the Ruffed grouse ate em more in the hard winter months when the snow and ice cover kept em from getting down to the leafy more vegetation they prefered. We quit shooting the ruffed grouse at late season if we got early snow and ice because they started to taste like spruce grouse.
    I can do the impossible right away. Be patient, miracles take me a bit longer.

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    Very interesting. Thank you for your replies.

    Jim

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    Yes, back in Minnesota, later in the season, I sould find blsam fir needles in the crop of Ruffies. How are the numbers up you way?

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    Ruffed grouse are doing well in Alaska. I'm very happy that ruffed grouse that were transplanted many years ago south of the Alaska Range seem to be thriving. But much still needs to be learned about these birds.

    Ruffed grouse appear to be on the rise here in the interior region, and that's just fine with me and my dogs! The next several years should be fine.

    I did fine again this fall on sharp tails, but others report lower numbers. There sure is a lot learn about our sharp tails.

    Spruce grouse don't seem to be as plentiful in the interior. Reports from other areas of the state seem to indicate lower numbers as well. A lot we don't know about these birds as well.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with ruffs eating evergreens.

    Jim

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    gotta love eating them ruff's they are one fine tasteing bird, needles or berries they are good to go
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    Ruffed grouse But much still needs to be learned about these birds.

    There sure is a lot learn about our sharp tails.

    Spruce grouse A lot we don't know about these birds as well.
    To try an internet search on the Secret Society of Alaskan Grouse, I can tell you, will leave you disappointed. Even in person, the bios and persons responsible for releases and introductions are very tight lipped about when, where and how many. There is a little info in public data bases, but not much that I have found.
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    Aires,

    Alaska hasn't had anyone working specifically on game birds for a great many years. One semi-retired gentleman has done more than his share of this work,but the tasks are daunting. ADF&G has recently hired a biologist who will do just this kind of work, but he has a lot of work ahead of him. The Army has 1.6 million acres of training landsin the interior region and they have done a fair amount of grouse study and controlled burns and are working with the new ADF&G biologist, so we'll see what happens in the future.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    To try an internet search on the Secret Society of Alaskan Grouse, I can tell you, will leave you disappointed. Even in person, the bios and persons responsible for releases and introductions are very tight lipped about when, where and how many. There is a little info in public data bases, but not much that I have found.
    Much of the early work on the Ruffed grouse introduction was conducted by F & G Biologist Nick Steen based out of Palmer, Nick kept impeccable notes, and was well versed on this subject. This project was his passion. All documentation still in F & G archives is supposed to be available to the public since the studies were paid for by the public. There are still several drumming routes maintained throughout the valley. I have seen the painted numbers on the various sites refreshed but have not actually seen the biologist checking the routes in the last couple of years. My personal obversation seems the population is stable in the area I frequent. I see about the same amount each year, and love the sound of their drumming. ~Mist~

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    Akres,

    I re-read your post and I guess I'm not clear on what it is you are looking for from ADF&G or anyone else. There is a plethora of written material available on the various grouse and ptarmigan on the web, at the public library, book stores, and at ADF&G.

    I'm wondering what you mean by "releases and introductions?" The only such introductions of grouse were done decades ago and are pretty well documented. There won't be any more.

    What other sort of questions do you have?

    Jim

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    Jim/Mist,
    I have read pretty much what I think ADF&G has publically afforded, buy there were a lot of missing gaps. It has been a couple of years since I persued that endeavor though, so more information might have been compiled and released. The information, involvement and accomplishments of private individuals within the Ruffed Grouse Society imo have proven to be way more effective and yes, clandestine. Not much is publically revealed. For instance, I have an acquaintance living in the Wasilla areathat received 60+ Ruff's in two boxes several years ago. He was asked to just release the birds at three different locations of his choosing. Kinda odd, with no guidance, no concern for suitable habitat...nothing. Anyway he did just that. One place today Ruffs can be found there...the other two, there has not been any sighted nor heard. Not all introductions were accomplished under the auspices of the ADF&G it seems...at least not Offically.

    BTW: In my area, the numbers of Ruffs at this time is significantly lower than the past few years...2/3 reduction in sighting vs last year. Though I am seeing significant increases in Coyote and Fox.
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    AKRes.
    I personally do not have a lot of knowledge about the grouse in my area, other that what I have observed, Just posting the above as old information that possibly might be of help in any research. Keep up the good work. ~Mist~

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