Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) population densities are lower in the Intermountain West than elsewhere in the species' range. Throughout much of its range, the Ruffed Grouse is closely associated with quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), in part because aspen buds are an important winter food. Because population fluctuations of Ruffed Grouse have been associated with changes in aspen abundance or chemical composition, we studied winter foraging of the species in the Intermountain West where it has received little attention. Aspen buds were the most prominent forage in the bird's diet, although in contrast to other Ruffed Grouse food habits studies, reproductive buds were not eaten more than vegetative buds, and buds of other deciduous plants were also important (>20% of the diet). Excretion of high concentrations of ammonium nitrogen suggests that grouse in northern Utah are ingesting higher levels of secondary plant compounds than reported elsewhere. Our results show aspen is important in the winter ecology of Ruffed Grouse in northern Utah and suggest that continued loss of aspen may impact grouse populations.
Hewitt, David G. and Messmer, Terry A.
"Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) foraging in aspen stands during winter in northern Utah,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 60
, Article 11.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol60/iss2/11