Bonasa umbellus

Status:  Extirpated.

Documentation: Specimen: HMM 1984 (pair), 1916 Dodge Co (Swenk, Notes Before 1925).

Taxonomy:  Pyle (2008) listed eight subspecies, although variation and color phases make accurate separation difficult; some authors suggest as many as 15 subspecies (Rusch et al 2020).  The extirpated Nebraska population was included within the range of nominate B. u. umbellus (Pyle 2008, AOU 1957).


Ducey (1988) summarized the little that is known about this species’ occurrence in Nebraska. Most had disappeared by the late 1880s, although it was considered a rare resident by about 1900 at Child’s Point, in present-day Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co (Ducey 1988). According to Bruner et al (1904), this species still occupied woodlands along the Missouri River Valley around 1900 but was by then rare. Swenk (Notes in NOU Archives) reported that “Mr. Skow knows of a dozen ruffed grouse which have been taken near Omaha in past years. Four were killed in Mill Hollow in 1895 or thereabouts and all were mounted. The last one was shot at that place by Roy Mullen and Edward Wallace about 1905.”

The specimens cited above were shot by Anthony Machianach near Nickerson, Dodge Co and apparently are the specimens examined by Aldrich and Friedmann (1943); one is a red morph the other gray, and they constitute the last known record for the state. The location of collection in the lower Elkhorn River Valley and the date of collection some years after the species was rare in prime habitat, raise some question as to the authenticity of the specimens, however.

Aldrich and Friedmann (1943) indicate on their range maps that the Rocky Mountain subspecies incana may occur on the Pine Ridge, but there are no known reports from that area (Bray et al 1986); it is, however, an uncommon resident in the Black Hills of South Dakota (Tallman et al 2002).

An attempt to reintroduce this species in the Nemaha Co section of Indian Cave SP in 1968 (Cortelyou 1970) was unsuccessful, none being reported since 1973 (Johnsgard 1997). In recent years releases have been made in Kansas, including areas along the south side of the Missouri River in Doniphan Co; if this population becomes established, a few birds may wander into extreme southeast Nebraska. Similar releases in extreme northwest Missouri have been unsuccessful (Missouri Department of Conservation data). It was thought that a few birds may have persisted as late as 2000 (Scott Taylor, personal communication); an intriguing report with good details from a knowledgeable observer was of two birds flushed in southern Nemaha Co, Nebraska 12 Aug 2001. The observer was an experienced turkey hunter but had not heard grouse drumming in the area.


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
NOU: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union
SP: State Park

Literature Cited

Aldrich, J.W., and H. Friedmann. 1943. A revision of the Ruffed Grouse. Condor 45: 85-103.

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed.  Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1970. Ruffed Grouse. NBR 38: 90.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1997. The birds of Nebraska and adjacent plains states. Occasional Papers No. 6, Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Pyle, P. 2008. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part II, Anatidae to Alcidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rusch, D.H., S. Destefano, M.C. Reynolds, and D. Lauten. 2020. Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Swenk, M.H. Notes before 1925. Bird notes from A.M. Brooking of Hastings, C.A. Black of Kearney, and B.J. Olson of Kearney, based chiefly on their collections, up to January 1, 1925. Typed manuscript in the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Archives, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 27 Mar 2020