Ruffed Grouse Drumming Sites

Allison Bernhisel discusses her efforts locating male Ruffed Grouse and their primary drumming structures at MPG North and MPG Ranch.  

Earlier this summer, I searched for male Ruffed Grouse and drumming sites at MPG Ranch and MPG North.

We can use data from this study to monitor male grouse numbers over time.

Most studies on Ruffed Grouse in the northern extent of their range associate high population densities with young aspen stands

I used Ruffed Grouse detections from point-count data (shown on map above) to narrow down probable drumming sites at MPG Ranch. At MPG North, I used camera trap data to identify survey areas.

I surveyed along transects for male Ruffed Grouse and their primary drumming sites from April 3 to June 20, 2016.

I began searching for grouse early in the morning, quietly stalking birds along each transect. This silent pace helped me locate the low-frequency drum of the Ruffed Grouse.

Once I could hear the sound of a male’s drum—the rapid beating of his wings against the air—I walked towards it

This stop-and-go stalking continued until I saw the bird on his drumming site. Once discovered, most males, like the one pictured above, stared at me for a bit before scuttling away into protective brush.

I located nine Ruffed Grouse drumming sites (green dots) at MPG Ranch.

From 2010 to 2015, 16 game cameras (blue dots) detected grouse at MPG North. This year, I found six Ruffed Grouse drumming sites (green dots) there.

I found most drumming sites at MPG Ranch along North Woodchuck and Tongue Creeks. These areas are thick with aspen and cottonwood trees and water is plentiful. Surrounding areas are far more open and dry.

Where grouse live in conifer stands devoid of aspen, various shrubs (e.g. snowberry, rocky mountain maple, ninebark, birch (leaf pictured)) and water are abundant.

Further study is needed to determine if aspen, conifer, or water limits Ruffed Grouse distribution at MPG.