The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is categorized as fairly common in BCR 14. It is strongly associated with the aspen type but its ideal habitat includes a mix of forest types and brushy edges and openings with fruit-bearing shrubs. Forest openings of various sizes are also required for brood rearing. Sapling and pole hardwoods and aspen are important for escape and brood cover. Since the amount of young forest is declining in BCR 14, this species is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in one or more states in BCR 14. It is a highly sought after game species in this BCR.
This species inhabits brushy mixed-age woodlands—hardwood, mixed-wood and conifer. It uses all the stages from early successional to mature. Aspen and birch are present in the best habitat. Catkin-bearing trees or shrubs, such as yellow or paper birch, aspen and alder are important habitat components. Mature coniferous forest is important for winter roosting until the snow gets deep enough for roosting. Drumming sites—large fallen tree boles, rocks or stone walls—in dense sapling-pole hardwood, birch or aspen stands are also important.
Its territory size in BCR 14 ranges around 40 acres. It will travel further to seek out certain food supplies such as yellow birch catkins or beech nuts.
Habitat Management Practices
Provide a significant aspen component in each management unit since he key habitat component is aspen. Management units should be around 100 acres with about 10 percent in openings located within aspen-hardwood and softwood stands. The aspen-hardwood component should contain at least four usable age (size) classes. The seedling-sapling stage for brood rearing, the sapling-pole stage for drumming and escape cover, the pole stage for nesting and the mature stage for feeding and nesting. The softwood component should contain stands of relatively mature trees for winter cover along with smaller size classes for feeding and escape cover.
When assessing properties for habitat potential look for soils that will provide aspen as an early successional component. Some of these soils will lead toward hardwood at a later successional stage while others will succeed toward softwood—the late successional stages of hardwood and softwood are part of the bird’s habitat requirements. Examples of these soils include Lyman, the well-drained Bernardston, Canterbury, Chichester, Marlow, Monadnock, Paxton, Plaisted and the moderately well-drained Dixfield, Gilmanton, Howland, Peru, Pittstown, Skerry, Sunapee or Woodbridge. There are others depending on the location in BCR 14.
- Establish 100-acre management units if possible. Consider the existing land-use practices on neighboring properties if the property you are working on is smaller than 100 acres.
- Aspen: Use even-aged management with a rotation age of 50 to 70 years with entries every seven to 10 years. Cut units should be 5 to 10 acres. Freshly cut areas will be used as openings until they fill in. Leave some large aspen in uncut units, since grouse eat the buds of mature male aspen
- Northern hardwoods and mixed-wood: Use even-aged management with a rotation of 120 to 150 years with entries every 10 years. Cut units should be 5 acres or more. Freshly cut areas will be used as openings until they fill in.
- Conifers: Use either group selection or patch cutting keeping the groups to about 2 or 3 acres.
- Openings: Maintain around 5 percent of the area in permanent openings—1 to 3 acres in size. Rotate mowing so some openings are in the berry-production stage and others are grassier for insect production. Manage the edges of larger openings such as hayfields or pastures for a combination of berry-producing shrubs interspersed with groups of larger trees.