Minnesota Grouse Counts Down 10 Percent From Last Year

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse drumming counts were down about 10 percent statewide, according to an annual survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop in the northeast, which is the bird’s core range. Counts in the northwest declined from 0.9 in 2012 to 0.7 drums per stop in 2013. Drumming counts did not change significantly in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.

This year, observers recorded 0.9 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2011 and 2012 were 1.7 and 1.0 drums per stop, respectively.

The decrease was not unexpected, said DNR grouse biologist Charlotte Roy, because the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle. Drumming counts peaked most recently in 2009, she said.

Ruffed grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle. The population is surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes in the state’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. Drumming did occur later this year because of the late spring, suggesting that nesting likely occurred later than normal.

“Later nesting would have pushed the hatch out a bit, hopefully beyond the spring rains,” Roy said in a statement. “Time will tell if that occurred and the impact on production.”


Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease

Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest, the bird’s primary range in Minnesota, were similar to 2012. Counts in the east-central region declined significantly.

Despite several years of declining numbers, this year’s statewide average of 9.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.