The Bird Book/Grouse, Partridges, etc

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Grouse, Partridges, etc: Family Odontophoridae



The members of this family are birds of robust form, subdued (not brightly colored) plumage, comparatively short legs and necks; the tarsi and toes are feathered in the Ptarmigan, the tarsi, only, feathered in the Grouse, and the tarsi and toes bare in the Partridges and Bob-whites. They feed upon berries, buds, grain and insects.


Colinus virginianus virginianus.

Range. United States east ot North Dakota and Texas and from the southern British Provinces to the Gulf coast.

A celebrated "game bird" which has been hunted so assiduously in New England that it is upon the verge of extermination, and the covers have to be continually replenished with birds trapped in the south and west. They frequent open fields, which have a luxuriant growth of weeds, or grain fields in the fall. Their nests are built along the roadsides, or beside stonewalls or any place affording satisfactory shelter. The nest is made of dried grasses and is arched over with grass or as to conceal the eggs, eggs, when


overhanging leaves

They lay from ten to twenty pure white

which are very frequently nest stained


found. Size 1.20 x .95. Often two or three broods are raised in a season, but frequently one or more broods are destroyed by rainy weather.

289a. FLORIDA BOB-WHITE. Colinus virginianus floridanus.

Range. This sub-species, which is found in the southern half of Florida, is very much darker than the northern Bob-white, and is numerously barred below with black. Its nesting habits and eggs are identical with those of the preceding.

289b. TEXAS BOB- WHITE. Colinus virginianus texanus.

Range. Texas ; casually north to Kansas. A grayer variety of the Bob-white, The nesting habits and eggs are the same as those of the Bob-white, except that the eggs may average a trifle smaller. Size 1.18 x .92.

291. MASKED BOB-WHITE. Colinus ridgwayi.

Range. Sonoran region of Mexico north to southern Arizona.

The female of this species is like that of the Texan Bob-white. Their nesting habits and eggs are in all respects like those of the other Bob-whites. Size of eggs, 1.20 x. 95.


Bobwhite. Florida Bobwhite. Masked Bobwhite.


292. MOUNTAIN QUAIL. Oreortyx picta picta.

Range. Pacific coast of North America from California to Washington.

This is the largest of the Partridges, being 11 inches in length. It is of a general grayish color, with chestnut throat patch, and chestnut flanks, barred with white. Two long plumes extend downward from the back of the head. This species nests abundantly in the mountainous portions of northern California and throughout Oregon, and is gradually increasing in numbers in Washington. As a rule they nest only on the higher mountain ranges, placing their nest of leaves under the protection of an overhanging bush or tuft of grass. Their eggs number from six to fifteen, and are of a pale reddish buff color. Size 1.35 x 1.05.

Reddish buff.


Oreortyx picta plumi

Mountain Partridge Scaled Partridge.

Range. Mountain ranges of California and Lower California, chiefly in the southern parts of the former. This species is like the latter except that it is grayer on the back of the head and neck. Its nesting habits and eggs are like the preceding.


Oreortyx picta confinis.

Range. San Pedro Mountains, Lower California This .species, which is grayer above than the preceding two, breeds only in the highest peaks of its range. Otherwise its nesting habits and eggs are the same as the other Plumed Partridges.

293. SCALED QUAIL. Callipepla squamata squamata.

Range. Mexico and southwestern border of the United States.

This blue gray species is 10 inches in length; the feathers on the neck and underparts have narrow dark borders, thus giving the plumage a scaly appearance, from which the birds take their name. They have a small tuft of whitish or buffy feathers on the top of the head. It is especially abundant in the dry arid portions of its range, being found often <fr many miles away from water. Their eggs are laid in a shallow hollow under some small bush or cactus, and number from eight to sixteen; they are creamy white, finely specked with buff or pale, brownish. Size 1.25 X .95. Creamy white.



293a. CHESTNUT-BELLIED SCALED QUAIL. Callipepla squamata castanogastris.

Range. Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas and and southward into Mexico.

This sub-species is like the last with the addition of a chestnut patch on the belly. Their breeding habits do not vary in any particular way from those of the Scaled Partridge.

294- CALIFORNIA QUAIL. Lophortyx calif ornica calif ornica.

Range. Coast region of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

This is one of the most beautiful of the Partridges, with its crest of feathers rising from the crown and curving forwards so that the broadened ends hang directly over the bill. It is about the size of the preceding species, and is distinguished from the following one by its white forehead, chestnut patch on the belly and the scaly appearance of the feathers in that region, by its dark crown and the gray flanks They lay from eight to twenty eggs with a creamy white or buffy ground color, handsomely blotched with shades of brown and yellowish brown. Size 1.20 x .93

Creamy white with white streaks.

California Partridge

Gambel's Partridge

294a. VALLEY PARTRIDGE. Lophortyx calif ornica vallicola.

Range. Interior portions of California, Oregon and Washington. The nesting habits of this grayer sub-species do not differ in any manner from those of the above species. The eggs are indistinguishable.


295. GAMBEL QUAIL. Lophortyx gambeli.

Range. Southwestern United States from Texas to California; north to Utah.

This handsome species differs from the California in the Chestnut crown and flanks, and the black patch on the belly. They are very abundant in Arizona, both on the mountains and in the valleys, and apparently without any regard to the nearness to, or remoteness from a water supply. They breed during May, laying their eggs on the ground under any suitable cover. The eggs cannot be distinguished from those of the California Partridge, except that they average a trifle larger. Size 1.25 x.95. Buff




Mearns Partridge


Cyrtonyx montezumce mearnsi.

Range. Mexico, north to southern Arizona and New Mexico, and to western Texas.

A remarkable species about 9 inches long; often called 'Tool Quail" because of its eccentric and clownish markings, streaks and spots of black, white, buff, gray and chestnut. It is met with in small flocks on the mountains and less frequently in the valleys. It frequents scrubby wooded places rather than open hill sides and is very easy to approach and kill; this confidence or stupidity together with its clownish appearance are the reasons for its commonly used local name. Their nests are hollows in the ground, lined with grasses and concealed by overhanging tufts of grass. The eggs, which are pure white, are not distinguishable with certainty from those of the Bobwhite, but average longer. Size 1.25 x .95.

297. DUSKY GROUSE. Dendragapus obscurus obscurus.

< Rocky Mountain region from central Montana south to New Mexico. With the exception of the Sage Grouse, this species is the largest of the family, being about 20 inches in length. The general tone of its plumage below is gray; above, blackish gray and the tail blackish with a broad terminal band of light gray. They frequent the wooded and especially the coniferous districts, where they build their nests under fallen trees or at the bases of standing ones. They lay from six to ten eggs of a buffy color, sparsely spotted and blotched with brownish. Size 2.00x1.40.

297a. SOOTY GROUSE. Dendragapus obscurus fuliginosus.

Range. Mountain ranges along the f ,<

Pacific coast from California to British Columbia.

Like the last, this somewhat darker sub-species is met with in timbered regions, where its habits are about the same as those of the Ruffled Grouse, except, of course, that they are not nearly as shy as the Grouse in New England. Their eggs are laid in hollows beside stumps or under logs. The eggs are buff colored, spotted with reddish brown. Size 2.00 x 1.40. Rich




Dendragapus obscurus richardsoni.

Range. Northern Rocky Mountains from central Montana to British Columbia.

A dark variety with no terminal band of gray on the tail. Its habits, nesting and eggs are precisely like those of the preceding species.


Canachites canadensis canadensis.

Range. Northern United States and southern British Provinces; west to Minnesota.

A dark species, smaller than the last (15 inches long), and easily recognized by its black throat and extensive black patch on the breast. The

habits of this species and the two varieties into which it has been sub-divided

are ^ e same > as a

species, they are very tame, will not fly unless actually obliged to, and frequently allow themselves to be knocked down with sticks. Their nests are hollows in the leaves on the ground, generally under the sheltering branches of a low spreading fir tree. The six to fifteen eggs are a bright buff color, blotched and spotted boldly with various shades of brown. Size 1.70 x 1.25.

Bright buff

Sooty Grouse

Spruce Grouse

298b. ALASKA SPRUCE PARTRIDGE. Canachites canadensis osgoodi.

Range. Alaska.

This variety is practically the same as the preceding, the birds not always being distinguishable; the nest and eggs are the same as the Canada Grouse.

298c. CANADA SPRUCE PARTRIDGE. Canachites canadensis canace.

Range. Labrador and the Hudson Bay region.

Like the last, this variety is hardly to be distinguished from the Hudsonian. Its nesting habits and eggs are the same.




Canachites franklin franklini.

Range. Northwestern United States and British Columbia.

This species is very similar to the Canada Grouse, the most apparent difference being the absence of the brownish gray tip to the tail, and the upper coverts are broadly tipped with white. This species, which is very abundant in the northwest, has the same stupid habits of the eastern bird. During the mating season, the males of both this and the preceding species have the same

habit . of "drumming" that the Ruffed Grouse has.

Brownish buff

Ruffed Grouse

Their nests are placed on the ground under bushes or fir trees and from eight to fifteen eggs are laid. These are brownish buff in color, spotted and blotched with rich brown. They are very similar to the eggs of the Canada Grouse. Data. Moberly Peak, Cascade Mts., British Columbia, June 9, 1902. 7 eggs in a slight hollow on the ground. Collector, G. P. Dippie.

300. RUFFED GROUSE. Bonasa umbellus umbellus.

Range. Eastern United States from Minnesota to New England; south to Virginia.

The Ruffed Grouse is "King of the Game Birds" in the east, where it has been hunted so freely, that it has become very wary and requires a skillful marksman to bring it down. Because of the cutting off of all heavy timber, and the vigor with which they are pursued by hunters, they are becoming very scarce in New England, and within a few years they will probably be practically extinct in that section. Their favorite resorts are heavily timbered woods or low growth birches. Their nests are hollows in the leaves under fallen trees, beside some stump or concealed among the small shoots at the base of a large tree. The bird sits very close, but when she does fly, goes with the familiar rumble and roar which always disconcerts the novice, the wind created by her sudden flight generally causing the leaves to settle in the nest and conceal the eggs. They lay from eight to fifteen eggs, of a brownish buff color, sometimes with a few faint markings of brown, but generally unspotted. Size 1.55 x 1.15. The young of all the Partridges and Grouse are born covered with down and follow their parents soon after leaving the shell. The adults are very skillful in leading enemies away from their young, feigning lameness, broken wings, etc. The nesting habits and eggs of the three sub-species are precisely the same in every respect as those of this bird.


Brownish buff


299 300a

300a. CANADA RUFFED GROUSE. Bonasa umbellus togata.

Range. Northern t United States and southern British Provinces from Maine and Nova Scotia west to Washington and British Columbia.

SOOb. GRAY RUFFED GROUSE. Bonasa umbellus umbelloides.

Range. Rocky Mountain region from Colorado to Alaska.

A grayer species than the common.

300c. OREGON RUFFED GROUSE. Bonasa umbellus sabini.

Range. Pacific coast from California to British Columbia.

A dark species with the prevailing color a reddish tone.

J. B. Pardoe




Lagopus lagopus lagopus.

Range. Arctic regions, in America south nearly to the United States border, and casually to Maine.

Ptarmigan are Grouse-like birds, feathered to the toe nails; they have many changes of plumage, in winter being nearly pure white, and in summer largely reddish brown or grayish, barred with black. In the breeding plumage they have red comblike wattles over the eye. In other seasons, their plumage varies in all degrees between winter and summer. They nest on the

Brownish buff

ground in hollows

among the leaves,

lined with a few grasses, and sometimes feathers.

They lay from six to sixteen eggs which have a

ground color of buff or brownish buff, heavily

speckled, blotched and marbled with blackish

brown. Size 1.75 x 1.25.


I^agopus lagopus alleni.

Range. Newfoundland. A very similar bird to the preceding; eggs indistinguishable.

Willow Ptarmigan

Rock Ptarmigan

302. ROCK PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rupestris rupestris.


Range. Chiefly in the interior of British America, from the southern portions to Alaska end the Arctic Ocean.

A species with a smaller bill and in summer a grayer plumage, more finely barred with black. Its nesting habits are the same as the other species, it nesting on the ground in such localities as would be frequented by the Ruffed Grouse. Its eggs cannot be positively distinguished from those of the Willow Ptarmigan. Size 1.70x1.20.



302a. REINHARDT'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rupestris reinhardi.

Range. Labrador and Greenland; an eastern variety of the preceding species. Its habits, nesting habits and eggs are just the same as those of Rock Ptarmigan.

302b. NELSON'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rupestris nelsoni.

Range. Unalaska, of the Aleutian chain. An abundant species in its restricted range, making its nest on the ground in the valleys. Eggs like the others.

302c. TURNER'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rupestris atkhensis.

Range. Atka Island, of the Aleutian chain. Nests and eggs not distinctive.

302d. TOWNSEND'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rupestris torvnsendi.

Range. Kyska Island of the Aleutian group.

On account of the constantly changing plumage of these birds, while interesting, they are very unsatisfactory to study, and it is doubtful if anyone can identify the different sub-species of the Rock Ptarmigan, granting that there is any difference, which is doubtful.

302.1. EVERMANN'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus evermanni.

Range. Attu Island, of the Aleutian group.

This is, in summer, the darkest of the Ptarmigans, having little or no rufous and much blackish. The nesting habits and eggs are the same as those of the Rock Ptarmigan.

303. WELCH'S PTARMIGAN. Lagopus rvelchi.

Range. Newfoundland.

This species, in summer, is more grayish than the Rock Ptarmigan, and is very finely vermiculated with blackish. It is a perfectly distinct species from the Allen Ptarmigan, which is the only other species found on the island. They inhabit the higher ranges and hills in the interior of the island, where they are quite abundant. They build their nests on the ground under protection of overhanging bushes. The eggs are laid in a hollow in the dead leaves, sometimes with a lining of grasses. The eggs do not differ in size or appearance from those of the Rock Ptarmigan. Data. Newfoundland, June 3, 1901. Nest a slight hollow in the moss, besides a fallen stump; lined with a few feathers. Collector, E. H. Montgomery.




304. WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN. Lagopus leucurus leucurus.

Range. Higher ranges of the Rocky Mountains, from New Mexico north to Alaska.

Ptarmigan are remarkable birds in that they are in an almost continual state of molting, nearly every month in the year showing them in different stages of plumage, ranging from the snow-white winter dress to the summer one in which reddish-brown prevails on Willow Ptarmigan and a black and gray barred effect predominates on the other species. Notice that they are feathered to the toes, in winter the feathers on the toes growing dense and hair-like, not only prqtecting the toes from the cold but making excellent snowshoes which enable them to walk with impunity over the lightest snow.

Ptarmigan form the staple article of diet for northern foxes, and were it not for the fact that their plumage changes to correspond to the appearance of the ground at the various seasons they would fare hardly indeed.

In spring the little red combs above the eyes of the males are swollen and conspicuous. At this season they strut and perform curious antics, such as all Grouse are noted for.

This species differs from any of the preceding in having at all seasons of the year, a white tail; it is also somewhat smaller than the Rock Ptarmigan. They nest abundantantly near the summits of the ranges in Colorado, making their nests among the rocks, and generally lining them with a few grasses. During June, they lay from six to twelve eggs having a creamy background, speckled and blotched with chestnut brown. Size 1.70 x 1.15.

304a. KENAI WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN. Lagopus leucurus peninsularis.

Range. Kena'i Peninsular, Alaska. A similar but paler (in summer) variety of the preceding. The nesting habits or eggs will not differ.

305. PRAIRIE CHICKEN. Tympanuchus americanus americanus.

Range. The prairies, chiefly west of the Mississippi; north to Manitoba, east to Ohio, and west to Colorado.

This familiar game bird of the west is about 18 inches in length, brownish above and grayish below, with bars of brownish black both above and below. In the place of the ruffs of the Ruffled Grouse, are long tufts of rounded or square ended feathers, and beneath these a peculiar sac, bright orange in the

Olive buff 185


Prairie Chicken

Heath Hen

breeding season, and capable of being inflated to the size of a small orange; this is done when the bird makes its familiar "booming" noise. They are very good "table birds" and although they are still very abundant in most of their 'range, so many are being killed for market, that it has become necessary to make more stringent laws relating to the killing and sale of Pinnated Grouse, as they are often called. They nest anywhere on the prairie, in hollows on the ground under overhanging bushes or tufts of grass. They lay from eight to fifteen eggs having a buffy or olive buff ground color, sparingly and finely sprinkled with brown ; size 1.70 x 1.25.


chus americanus attwateri. *** Range. Coast region of Louisiana and Texas. This is a slightly smaller and darker variety of the Pinnated Grouse. Its eggs cannot be distinguished from those of the more northerly distributed bird.

306. HEATH HEN. Tympanuchus cupido.

Range. Island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

This species is similar to the preceding, but has the scapulars more broadly tipped with buff, the axillars barred, and the pinnated feathers on the neck pointed. It is slightly smaller than the western species. It is found on the wooded portions of the island, where its breeding habits are the same as those of the Ruffed Grouse. Mr. Brewster probably has the only authentic set of the eggs of this species. They are of a yellowish green color and are unspotted. Size 1.70 x 1.25. A number of Prairie Hens liberated on the island several years ago are apparently thriving well, and nests found there now would be fully as apt to belong to this species.


Pale buff


Tympanuchus pallidicinctus.

Range. Prairies from southwestern Kansas through Indian Territory to western Texas.

A smaller and paler species than the Prairie Chicken. Never as abundant as the common Pinnated Grouse, this species appears to be becoming scarcer each year. Its nests are concealed under overhanging brush or placed under a large tuft oi! prairie grass, and are generally lined with a few grasses or leaves. They lay from eight to twelve eggs of a buffy color, much lighter than those of the Prairie Chicken, and unmarked. Size 1.65 x 1.25.


Pedioecetes phasianellus phasianellus.

Range. Interior of British America, from the United States boundary northwest to the Yukon.

Sharp-tailed Grouse are similar in form to

Prairie Sharp-tailed Grouse

Buffy drab

the Prairie Chicken, but are somewhat smaller

and very much lighter in color, being nearly

white below, with arrowhead markings on the

breast and flanks. This species is very abundant in Manitoba and especially so

on the plains west of Hudson Bay. Their nests are generally concealed under

a thicket or a large tuft of grass, and are lined with grasses and feathers.

They lay from <Sx to fi fteen eggs of a drab color, very minutely specked all over

with brown. Size 1.70 x 1.25.

308a. COLUMBIAN SHARP-TAILED GROUSE. Pedioecetes phasianellus col umbianus.

Range. Northwestern United States and British Columbia to central Alaska. Both the nesting habits and eggs of this variety are the same as the last, with which species, the birds gradually intergrade as their ranges approach. 308b. PRAIRIE SHARP-TAILED GROUSE. Pedioecetes phasianellus campes tris.

Range. Plains of the United States from the Mississippi to the Rockies. This sub-species shades directly into the two preceding where their ranges meet, and only birds from the extreme parts of the range of each show any marked differences. The nesting habits and eggs of all three are not to be distinguished.



309*. SAGE HEN.

Centrocercus urophasianus.

Range. Sage plains of the Rocky Mountain region from British Columbia to New Mexico, and from California to Dakota. This hand

Pale greenish drab

some bird is the largest of the American

Sage Hen Grouse, being about 30 inches long (the hen

bird is about six inches shorter). It may easily be recognized by its large size, its peculiar graduated tail with extremely sharp pointed feathers, and the black belly and throat. Their nests are hollows scratched out in the sand, under the sage bushes, generally with no lining. The nesting season is during April and May, they laying from six to twelve eggs of a greenish drab color, spotted with brown. Size 2.15 x 1.50.


  • * * RING-NECKED PHEASANT. Phasianus torquatus.

Several species of Pheasants have been introduced into the United States, among them being the Ring-necked, English, and Green Pheasants. The Ring-necked species seems to be the only one that has obtained a really strong foothold, it being now very abundant in Oregon and Washington, and adjacent states, and also found in abundance on many game preserves in the east. The males of any of the species may at once be distinguished from any of our birds by the long tail. Their nests are hollows in the leaves under tufts of grass or bushes. They lay from eight to fourteen eggs of a buff or greenish buff color, unmarked ; size 1.50 x 1.30.


Greenish buff