Pennsylvania is a US state located in the northeastern region of the country in the Rust Belt. Officially named the Commonwealth of Pennsylania, the state covers an area 46,055 sq mi and has a population of 12,807,060, ranking as the 33rd most extensive and 5th most populous state in the country. Pennsylvania has been nicknamed the "Keystone State" and "Quaker State," and uses the following motto: "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence." In addition to its official flag, Pennsylvania has numerous state symbols, including a state animal (white-tailed deer), state flower (Mountain laurel), state tree (Eastern hemlock), and state insect (Pennsylvania firefly). Pennsylvania also has a state bird: the ruffed grouse.
The ruffed grouse is the official state bird of Pennsylvania. The campaign to adopt the ruffed grouse as the state bird was spearheaded by the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC). The bird was designated the official bird on June 22, 1931, the same day the Eastern hemlock was declared the official state tree. The ruffed grouse served as the official game bird of Pennsylvania before it was adopted as the state bird.
The ruffed grouse is a medium-sized bird that weights between 0.99 and 1.65 lb, measures between 16 and 20 inches from head to tail, and has a wing span of about 25 inches. There are two forms or morphs of the ruffed grouse: grey and brown. The grey morph has a grey-brown head, neck, and back, with white flanks and underside. Its tail is brownish grey with a broad black band at the end. The brown morph has a uniform brown plumage with white patches on its flanks. Males and females are similar in appearance and size, making it difficult to tell them apart. The distinguishing feature is a subterminal tail band in females and unbroken tail bands in males.
Habitat and Ecology
The ruffed grouse is one of ten species of grouse native to North America. It inhabits the forests of the Appalachian Mountains, Canada, and Alaska, where it spends most of its time on the ground, especially in mixed woodlands. The grouse forages in search of buds, leaves, insects, and berry seeds, and has managed to thrive in varied habitats due to its ability to feed on a wide variety of plants and insects. The bird has adapted to winter conditions in the north and thrives in regions where other birds such as quails, turkeys, and pheasants have been wiped out.
Interaction with Humans
The ruffed grouse is hunted for meat and sport in the western and northern United States, as well as part of Canada. Hunting the bird can be a challenge because it spends most of its time in thick bushes and undergrowth, but frequently visits roadbeds in search of clover and gravel in the early morning or late afternoon. Despite being Pennsylvania's state bird, it is not protected by law. The state of Minnesota permits commercial hunting of the ruffed grouse, and as a consequence, about half a million birds are hunted annually.
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