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Nature Life: Grouse and Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Grouse, are a group of birds from the order Galliformes, in the family Phasianidae. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside.

Like many other Galliformes, grouse are generally heavily-built birds.

Many grouse have feathered nostrils, and some species, such as the ptarmigans, have legs which are entirely covered in feathers; in winter the toes, too, have feathers or small scales on the sides, an adaptation for walking on snow and burrowing into it for shelter.

They are omnivores, eating buds, leaves, berries, seeds, and insects. Grouse also feed on vegetation such as buds, catkins, leaves, and twig, which typically accounts for over 95% of adults’ food by weight. Though their diets vary greatly with the seasons.

Hatchlings eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, gradually reducing their proportion of animal food to adult levels.

To digest vegetable food, grouse have big crops and gizzards, eat grit to break up food, and have long intestines with well-developed caeca in which symbiotic bacteria digest.

During reproduction, the female grouse lays one clutch, but may replace it if the eggs are lost. She begins to lay about a week after mating and lays one egg every day or two; the clutch comprises five to 12 eggs.

These eggs, according to studies, have the shape of hen’s eggs and are pale yellow, sparsely spotted with brown. On laying the second-last or last egg, the female starts 21 to 28 days of incubation. Chicks hatch in dense, yellow-brown down and leave the nest immediately.

Many animals prey on grouse. Foxes, bobcats, coyotes, bird-eating hawks, and falcons, among others, will take grouse. With this, the grouse rely on their cryptic coloration and remain still to avoid detection when predators are around.

Grouse is also an abundant food source for so many other wildlife species.

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