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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/241

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RUFFED GROUSE.

and is at all times to be found. Their drumming is to be heard issuing from these peaceful retreats in early spring, at the same time that the booming of their relative, the Pinnated Grouse, is recognised, as it reaches the ear of the traveller, from the different parts of the more open country around. In such places as the groves just mentioned, the species now before you, kind reader, is to be met with, as you travel towards the south, through the whole of Tennessee and the Choctaw Territory; but as you approach the city of Natchez they disappear, nor have I ever heard of one of these birds having been seen in the State of Louisiana.

The mountainous parts of the Middle States being more usually the chosen residence of this species, I shall, with your permission, kind reader, return to them, and try to give you an account of this valuable Grouse.

The flight of the Ruffed Grouse is straight-forward, rather low, unless when the bird has been disturbed, and seldom protracted beyond a few hundred yards at a time. It is also stiff, and performed with a continued beating of the wings for more than half its duration, after which the bird sails and seems to balance its body as it proceeds through the air, in the manner of a vessel sailing right before the wind. When this bird rises from the ground at a time when pursued by an enemy, or tracked by a dog, it produces a loud whirring sound, resembling that of the whole tribe, excepting the Black Cock of Europe, which has less of it than any other species. This whirring sound is never heard when the Grouse rises of its own accord, for the purpose of removing from one place to another; nor, in similar circumstances, is it commonly produced by our little Partridge. In fact, I do not believe that it is emitted by any species of Grouse, unless when surprised and forced to rise. I have often been lying on the ground in the woods or the fields for hours at a time, for the express purpose of observing the movements and habits of different birds, and have frequently seen a Partridge or a Grouse rise on wing from within a few yards of the spot in which I lay unobserved by them, as gently and softly as any other bird, and without producing any whirring sound. Nor even when this Grouse ascends to the top of a tree, does it make any greater noise than other birds of the same size would do.

I have said this much respecting the flight of Grouse, because it is a prevalent opinion, both among sportsmen and naturalists, that the whirring sound produced by birds of that genus, is a necessary effect of their usual mode of flight. But that this is an error, I have abundantly satisfied myself by numberless observations.