Saturday, 30 June 2012

Willow Grouse

Male willow grouse

While in Norway I saw several willow grouse, always close to willow or birch scrub where they were feeding on the opening leaf buds and catkins. The male, above, has a redder colouring to his head and neck, and much more white on his body and wing feathers. Both sexes moult into almost pure white plumage in the winter, then back into a rusty brown feather colour in spring, the female doing so more quickly than the male as she has to be concealed on the nest and white feathers would betray her camouflage.

 Female willow grouse

The females were incubating eggs while we were there in late June, and they only come off to feed perhaps once a day. This bird, above, was feeding on the opening leaf buds of herbs and moss capsules. One nest I saw held twelve eggs, another held nine. These are both quite large clutches, typical of the species when their population is on a rise which these seemed to be as few birds have been seen in recent years. 

 Female on nest

The females incubate for more than three weeks, lying still and quiet under the cover of as in this case, dwarf birch, Betula nana. And they do so in all weather, such as rain when I took the photographs. The rain beading on her head and bill, and her breast feathers were matting with water. But underneath she would have been warm and dry, her plumage shedding the water as long as she was undisturbed -which she was when I left her.

No comments:

Post a Comment