The Ruffed Grouse – Pennsylvania’s Official State Bird

What is the State Bird of Pennsylvania? (And Why?)

Short answer: The Ruffed Grouse. Here’s why!

Pennsylvania State Bird: The Ruffed Grouse

Pennsylvania State Bird is the Ruffed Grouse, a bird that is native to the state’s forested regions. 

This game bird is one of the most iconic symbols of Pennsylvania’s wildlife, and its selection as the official state bird is a testament to its importance in the state’s natural heritage. 

In this article, we will delve into the Ruffed Grouse’s description, diet, predators, breeding, and nesting information.

When did the Ruffed Grouse become the state bird for Pennsylvania?

In 1931, the Ruffed Grouse was officially designated as the state bird of Pennsylvania

The Ruffed Grouse was chosen due to its abundance in Pennsylvania, its popularity among hunters, and its importance to the state’s economy. 

The Ruffed Grouse is also a symbol of the state’s rich natural heritage and its commitment to conservation.

What does the state bird of Pennsylvania look like?

The Ruffed Grouse is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 16 to 19 inches in length and weighing between 16 and 25 ounces. 

The males are larger than the females and have a distinctive black ruff of feathers on their necks, which is how they got their name. 

They have brown or grayish-brown feathers with dark brown or black bands on their tails, and their wings are marked with white spots. 

The Ruffed Grouse also has a crest of feathers on its head, which it can raise or lower depending on its mood.

How do these birds behave?

Ruffed Grouses are known for their unique behavior. 

They are solitary birds that prefer to live in wooded areas and are particularly fond of dense underbrush. 

They are excellent at camouflaging themselves, and their mottled feathers blend in perfectly with the forest floor.

When threatened, the Ruffed Grouse will often freeze, relying on its natural camouflage to stay hidden.

Ruffed Grouses are also known for their elaborate courtship displays. During mating season, males will drum their wings on a log to attract females. 

The drumming can be heard from a distance and is a sure sign that Ruffed Grouses are nearby.

Do Ruffed Grouses form communities?

While Ruffed Grouses are solitary birds, they do occasionally form communities, particularly in the winter. 

During harsh winters, Ruffed Grouses will band together to share body heat and roost in communal snow burrows. 

These communities can consist of up to a dozen birds, providing a rare glimpse into the social behavior of these otherwise solitary birds.

What do Ruffed Grouses eat?

Ruffed Grouses are omnivorous birds that feed on a variety of foods. Their diet consists mainly of plant material, such as leaves, buds, and fruits, but they also eat insects, spiders, and other small animals. 

During the winter, Ruffed Grouses will rely more heavily on buds and twigs, as well as the occasional bit of bark.

Why Is the Ruffed Grouse the State Bird of Pennsylvania?

The Ruffed Grouse was chosen as the Pennsylvania State Bird because of its significant presence in the state’s forests and its cultural and economic importance. 

Pennsylvania has an extensive history of hunting and game management, with the Ruffed Grouse being a popular game bird among hunters. 

Additionally, the Ruffed Grouse is also a symbol of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage and the importance of preserving its forests and wildlife.

1. Description

The Ruffed Grouse is a medium-sized bird, measuring around 16-19 inches in length, with a wingspan of 22-25 inches. 

Male Ruffed Grouse are larger than females and have distinctive ruffs, which are tufts of black feathers on either side of their necks. 

They have a broad, rounded tail, which is dark with narrow pale bars. The upperparts of their body are brown with black bars, and their underparts are a pale buff color with dark bars.

2. Diet & Predators

The Ruffed Grouse is primarily herbivorous, feeding on berries, fruits, seeds, and insects. 

During the winter months, they may also feed on buds and twigs from trees and shrubs.

The Ruffed Grouse has several natural predators, including hawks, owls, foxes, and bobcats. However, their excellent camouflage and ability to quickly fly short distances make them challenging to catch.

3. Breeding & Nesting Information

The breeding season for Ruffed Grouse begins in the early spring, with males using a distinctive drumming behavior to attract females. 

During courtship, males will stand on a log or rock and beat their wings rapidly to create a drumming sound that can be heard from a distance. 

Females will then choose a male based on the quality of his drumming display.

10 Facts About the Ruffed Grouse

A closer look at the Ruffed Grouse and explore some interesting facts about this fascinating bird.

1. Scientific Classification

The Ruffed Grouse, or Bonasa umbellus, is a medium-sized bird belonging to the family Phasianidae. 

It’s mostly found in forests in North America, with a range extending from Alaska to the eastern parts of the United States.

2. Winter Survival

One of the most unique characteristics of the Ruffed Grouse is its ability to survive harsh winter conditions.

 During winter, the bird burrows into the snow to create a roosting spot. The snow provides insulation and protection from the cold, making it easier for the bird to stay warm.

3. Feather Sound

Another interesting fact about the Ruffed Grouse is that its feathers create a unique sound when the bird takes off. 

This is due to the specially modified feathers on its wings that produce a rustling sound when the bird flies. This helps other birds in the area to locate the Ruffed Grouse.

4. Hunted Game Birds

The Ruffed Grouse is a popular game bird and is hunted for both food and sport.

Due to its elusive nature and excellent camouflage, hunting Ruffed Grouse requires a combination of skill and patience.

5. Dust Bathing

Like many other birds, the Ruffed Grouse also takes dust baths. It does this by digging a shallow depression in the ground and then flapping its wings to create a cloud of dust that it then rolls in. This helps to keep its feathers clean and free from parasites.

6. Nicknames

The Ruffed Grouse is also known by several other names, including the drumming grouse, the thunderbird, and the drummer. 

The name “drumming grouse” comes from the bird’s unique behavior during mating season, where it beats its wings against its chest to create a drumming sound.

7. Motionless Stance

When threatened, the Ruffed Grouse has a unique way of protecting itself. 

Instead of flying away or running, the bird will freeze in place and rely on its camouflage to blend in with its surroundings. 

This motionless stance makes it difficult for predators to detect the bird.

8. Bitter Taste

The Ruffed Grouse is known to have a bitter taste, which is thought to be a result of its diet of spruce needles and other bitter plant material. 

This bitter taste makes the bird less appealing to predators and helps to increase its chances of survival.

9. Population

The Ruffed Grouse is a common bird in Pennsylvania, with an estimated population of around 1.5 million. 

However, the bird’s population has been declining in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

10. Extra Food Pouches

Finally, the Ruffed Grouse has a unique adaptation that allows it to store extra food. The bird has two expandable pouches in its esophagus that can be used to store food when it’s abundant. This allows the bird to survive during times when food is scarce.

What makes the state bird of Pennsylvania unusual?

The Ruffed Grouse is an unusual bird for a few different reasons. For one, it is one of the few birds that is native to North America and is hunted both for sport and for food. 

In fact, the Ruffed Grouse is often referred to as the “king of game birds” due to its popularity among hunters.

Another interesting fact about the Ruffed Grouse is that it has a unique courtship display that is truly a sight to behold. 

During the mating season, the male will strut around and make a variety of different sounds and displays to attract a mate. 

This includes a drumming sound that is created by the male beating its wings against the air.

Despite its popularity among hunters, the Ruffed Grouse has faced some challenges in recent years due to habitat loss and other factors.

 However, conservation efforts are underway to help protect this important species and ensure that it remains a cherished part of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

FAQs About Pennsylvania State Bird

What is Pennsylvania’s state flower and bird?

Pennsylvania’s state flower is the Mountain Laurel, which was designated as the state flower in 1933. 

This flower grows abundantly in the state’s forests and mountains and is known for its beautiful pink and white blossoms. 

It’s also an important plant for wildlife, providing food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other animals.

What is Pennsylvania state animal?

Pennsylvania’s state animal is the white-tailed deer. These graceful creatures are a common sight throughout the state’s forests and fields, and they’re an important part of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage. 

White-tailed deer are also a popular game animal, with hunting playing a significant role in the state’s culture and economy.

What is the state bird of Pennsylvania for kids?

The state bird of Pennsylvania for kids is the Ruffed Grouse, which is known for its unique behaviors that make it a fascinating bird to observe.

Kids can learn about the Ruffed Grouse’s drumming display during mating season, its camouflage and motionless stance when threatened, and its unusual feather sound. 

This bird is also a great example of Pennsylvania’s rich natural heritage and the importance of conservation.

What is Pennsylvania’s state fruit?

Pennsylvania does not have an official state fruit, but the state is known for its production of several delicious fruits. Apples, peaches, and grapes are all grown in abundance in Pennsylvania, with many farms and orchards offering fresh fruit, cider, and other treats. 

The state’s fruit industry is an important part of Pennsylvania’s economy, providing jobs and income for thousands of people.

What is Pennsylvania known for?

Pennsylvania is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty. 

The state played a significant role in the American Revolution and is home to many historic sites, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Gettysburg battlefield. 

Pennsylvania is also famous for its chocolate, with Hershey’s Chocolate World being a popular tourist attraction. 

The state is home to several world-class universities, including the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State, and it’s known for its vibrant arts scene, diverse cuisine, and beautiful landscapes, including the Pocono Mountains and the Delaware Water Gap.

Final Thoughts About Pennsylvania State Bird

Pennsylvania’s state bird, the Ruffed Grouse, is a fascinating and unique bird with many interesting behaviors and characteristics. 

From its distinctive feather patterns and drumming display during mating season to its motionless stance and bitter taste, the Ruffed Grouse is a testament to the natural beauty and diversity of Pennsylvania’s wildlife.

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast, a hunter, or just someone who appreciates Pennsylvania’s rich natural heritage, the Ruffed Grouse is a bird worth learning about and celebrating. 

By taking steps to conserve and protect this species and its habitat, we can help ensure that future generations of Pennsylvanians will be able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of this remarkable bird.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.