Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 18% statewide this year compared to last year, according to a survey conducted by the DNR. Ruffed grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10 year cycle and counts this year are typical of what’s expected during the rising phase of the cycle.
Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the stat’s forested regions.
Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. For the past 67 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 126 routes across the state. Grouse season opens Sept. 17.
To count sharp tailed grouse, observers look for males displaying on traditional mating areas, which are called leks or dancing grounds. The average number of sharp tailed grouse was similar this year compared to 2015, but may be at a decline when considering changes in the number of leks counted or changes at the same leks counted in both years.