Birds – Canada And Franklin’s Grouse

The two species which belong to the related genus Canachites differ from the preceding in the absence of the dilatable air-sac on the side of the neck and in having only sixteen feathers in the much shorter tail. They are also much smaller birds, being only fifteen or sixteen inches long, the plumage in the male being transversely barred with blackish and grayish above, and black beneath, with a black border to the throat and many of the feathers with broad white tips; the tail is black. In the female the upper parts are barred with black, gray, and buff, while the lower parts are whitish, broadly barred with black. The species are separated largely on the marking of the tip of the tail, in the Canada Grouse (D. canadensis) this being rufous, while in Franklin’s Grouse (D. franklinii) it is black to the extreme tip. The handsome little Canada Grouse, or Spruce Partridge, as it is often called, ranges throughout northern North America east of the Rocky Mountains from the northern New England States to Alaska, frequenting, as its second name implies, the coniferous forests of the northern zone, and is usually a resident wherever found. It feeds largely upon the tender shoots and leaves of the spruce and tamarack, and is quite at home in the dense groves and swamps of these trees. In summer, however, it consumes quantities of berries of various kinds, especially the crowberry, and the several kinds of blueberries. In common with a few other Grouse it has the habit of “drumming,” that is, the production of a peculiar rumbling sound that has been likened to the sound of distant thunder. The manner in which this sound is produced has given rise to no little speculation, for as the ” drummer” is an exceedingly wary bird, it is a matter of difficulty to catch him in the act. It is popularly supposed that the sound is made by the male beating his wings on a hollow log, but this is undoubtedly incorrect, as the following quotation from a correspondent of Bendire shows: “After strutting back and forth for a few minutes, the male flew straight up, as high as the surrounding trees, about fourteen feet; here he remained stationary an instant, and while on suspended wing did the drumming with the wings, resembling distant thunder, meanwhile dropping down slowly to the spot from where he started, to repeat the same thing over and over again.” In other cases they select a tree known to woods-men as a “drumming tree,” with the trunk somewhat inclined, and, to quote from Mr. Manly Hardy, one of our best-known observers, the bird, commencing near the base of the tree selected, flutters upward with somewhat slow progress, but rapidly beating wings, which produce the drumming sound. The “drumming trees” are resorted to for several seasons and often become quite smooth and polished by constant use. The nest of this species is a depression by the side of a log or stump and usually contains from nine to thirteen eggs. Franklin’s Grouse, found in the northern Rocky Mountains mainly north of the United States and westward to the coast ranges, is a rather rare bird, except in a few favored localities. It frequents especially the edges of swampy mountain valleys, or groves and thickets of spruce and tamarack along small streams. It is usually very tame and unsuspicious, permitting itself to be knocked over with a stick or stone or even taken in the hand, whence it is often called the “Fool Hen.” Its nesting habits appear to be similar to those of the last species.