Closely related to the spruce, blue, and sage grouse, the ruffs are easy to spot because they sport large, puffy collars of black or red feathers around their necks. (The color depends on what region they are in – black feathers occur in those further north and in higher altitudes, the red in those further south and at lower altitudes.)
The males of this breed also have a solid black band of color on the edge of their tail feathers, as do the females, but the females’ is broken in the middle.
Ruffs are found primarily in Canada, but they can also be seen in the northeast and northwest parts of the US. They are decent sized birds, growing to nearly two feet in length and weighing as much as two pounds.
As with most upland birds, ruffs feed early in the day, then spend the afternoon virtually immobile under heavy cover, eating again later in the day before returning to the roost.
This breed loves to eat the buds off of aspen trees (along with their leaves and twigs), but will also consume the leaves and buds of other trees, in addition to berries and clover.
Ruffs are polygamous and during mating season, which takes place from March to May, the male will perch himself atop a log and furiously beat his wings, creating a loud drumming noise that will attract females and repel other males trying to invade his territory.
A typical ruffed grouse habitat is a wooded area with various types of trees, particularly adequate amounts of aspen. The hens, when they go off nesting, prefer more lightly wooded terrain that is more open, allowing them to better see predators.
The males of this species don’t move around too much, often staying within the same 10 acres their entire life. The females move more since they keep their nest and roost farther apart than most birds, but they still remain within the same 40 acres their entire life.
Typical predators of the ruff are foxes, bobcats, owls and hawks and like the Hungarian partridge, ruffs burrow in the snow to survive. Ruffs go about this a little bit differently than the huns, though – they dive-bomb the surface at high speeds and then burrow back towards the top where they can make a quick escape, if necessary. (This process actually kills several of the birds because they’ll try to crash into snow that is covered with ice.)
Unlike other upland birds, ruffs don’t run and hide as much when they sense danger. Instead, they often opt to jump into a tree like the spruce grouse or just sit tight like the sage grouse.
Snap shooting is the best way to bag a grouse, with most hunters preferring a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun with 6 or 7 1/2 size shot, and as before it’s best to hunt the edges of wooded areas rather than the interior of them to get a good shot.