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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/53

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Our most valuable game bird is the ruffed grouse or partridge. He stays with us all the time. He is a strong, swift flier, and taxes the nerve and skill of the sportsman to a high degree, and to bring down a partridge under full wing in the evergreens in November sends a thrill of delight through one's veins.

The partridge is a gallinaceous bird, and the young leave the nest as soon as hatched, running around with the mother like chickens. Upon the approach of danger the young hide themselves under the leaves in an incredibly short time, and the mother flutters off with an apparently broken wing, keeping just out of reach to lure you away from the hiding place of her young. This ruse is employed by many birds, but in none, so far as I know, to as large an extent as the partridge. Naturally a very timid bird, the partridge will put up quite a bluff for a fight in defense of her young, and on two occasions I knew a partridge to show fight without any young. Experience has satisfied me that a partridge knows enough to try and get a tree between himself and the huntsman, and to keep it there until he is out of range.

Partridges are less numerous around my home than they were twenty years ago, and their habits have undergone a very decided change. Then they usually took to a tree when flushed; now they seldom light on a tree, and take much longer flights. When hunting in Canada last fall I found that the partridges were very tame, and simply ran away from me, or if pressed flew into trees near by and waited for their heads to be taken off with rifle balls.

I notice considerable difference in the shade coloring of the partridge, some being much darker than others, but all have the same markings. The partridge is omnivorous, and, like man and the pig, he eats almost everything. In the winter he lives upon the buds of trees, and many a bird has lost his life while filling his crop from this source, as he is then an easy mark for the hunter, and I have seen the marks of his bill on the carcasses of animals. He is fond of blackberries, and sportsmen often visit blackberry patches when looking for him in the early fall, but I have been surprised to find that when feeding in a blackberry patch he apparently shows no preference for the ripe berries, filling his crop with all kinds. A fact about the partridge which I find is not generally known is, while in summer its toes are plain, like the toes of a chicken, in the winter they are bordered with a stiff hairy fringe that gives it support on the snow, having the same effect as the meshes of our snowshoes. This is a fact of considerable interest, for it seems to have a bearing upon the theory that there is a tendency in animals to develop conditions favorable to their environment. Under this theory one might hope to find a develop-