The nest of the Thunder Chicken

Ruffed grouse nest!!

My love of the “Thunder Chicken” runs deep. So I was ecstatic when we came across this ruffed grouse nest at the base of a tree.

Neil and I were walking the woods when a grouse flushed from the brush beside us. That’s not so unusual here, but she was calling as she flew away, which is a bit unusual. Given the time of year, we had a quick look for a nest — and found one! I snapped this pic and we skedaddled out of there, to leave her in peace.

Ruffed grouse nest in hollows on the ground. Like this one, they’re often concealed at the base of a tree, or next to a log. The birds are incredibly well camouflaged in dappled deciduous woods. I now know exactly where this nest is, with mama sitting on the ground, and I still find her tricky to see.

Only 4 eggs were visible when we found the nest, though the hen may lay as many as a dozen or so eggs in total. Spot the feathers she’s added to the nest! In the photo below you can see what the nest looked like four days later — if you didn’t know the eggs were there…

This nest is close to a path we have to use. I’ve taken these two photos while mama hen was off the nest, but I know my attention is not helpful to her or her future babies. For the next month while she incubates and the babies hatch, we’ll dial down our frequency on that trail and pass by as quickly and respectfully as possible.

I love love love that the woods has its secrets. There’s no bulletin board listing who is nesting today. For every nest I see, there are probably a dozen I don’t. Moments like this remind me that even when I’m paying all the attention I have, I’m only glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. Life abounds.



More information on how and where birds nest — among many other fabulous facts — can be found in “The Birder’s Handbook” by Paul R. Erlich, David Dobson, and Darryl Wheye