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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/245

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RUFFED GROUSE.

liberty of promiscuous concubinage, although not to such an extent as those of the Pinnated Grouse. They have frequent and severe battles at this season, which, although witnessed by the females, are never interrupted by them. The drumming sounds of these birds lead to their destruction, every young sportsman taking the unfair advantage of approaching them at this season, and shooting them in the act.

About the beginning of May, the female retires to some thicket in a close part of the woods, where she forms a nest. This is placed by the side of a prostrate tree, or at the foot of a low bush, on the ground, in a spot where a heap of dried leaves has been formed by the wind. The nest is composed of dried leaves and herbaceous plants. The female lays from five to twelve eggs, which are of a uniform dull yellowish colour, and are proportionate in size to the bird. The latter never covers them on leaving the nest, and in consequence, the Raven and the Crow, always on the look out for such dainties, frequently discover and eat them. When the female is present, however, she generally defends them with great obstinacy, striking the intruder with her wings and feet, in the manner of the Common Hen.

The young run about and follow the mother, the moment after they leave the egg. They are able to fly for a few yards at a time, when only six or seven days old, and still very small. The mother leads them in search of food, covers them at night with her wings, and evinces the greatest care and affection towards them on the least appearance of danger, trying by every art in her power to draw the attention of her enemies to herself, feigning lameness, tumbling and rolling about as if severely wounded, and by this means generally succeeding in saving them. The little ones squat at the least chuck of alarm from the mother, and lie so close as to suffer one to catch them in the hand, should he chance to discover them, which, however, it is very difficult to do. The males are then beginning to associate in small parties, and continue separated from the females until the approach of winter, when males, females, and young, mingle together. During summer, these birds are fond of dusting themselves, and resort to the roads for that purpose, as well as to pick up gravel. I have observed this species copulating towards autumn, but have not been able to account for this unseasonable procedure, as only one brood is raised in the season.

These birds have various enemies besides man. Different species of Hawks destroy them, particularly the Red-tailed Hawk and the Stanley