The grouse bird

   The grouse is a family of scratching, seed-eating game birds. The family includes the quail, partridge, ptarmigan, prairie hen, spruce hen, etc., as well as the capercailzie, moorfowl, and blackcock of the Old World. The characteristic species of the Mississippi Valley and Manitoba is the pinnated grouse or prairie hen. It is eighteen inches in length. The sides of the neck are decorated with tufts of ten narrow, stiff, marked, black feathers with rounded ends. The skin beneath the tufts is bare. The prairie hen shifts for shelter and food, but is not a bird of passage. It is preëminently a hardy bird of the prairies, and, while not averse to the shelter of a tree top in winter, takes to a soft snowbank with entire comfort. Its legs and toes are heavily feathered.

   In spring the male birds assemble on bare, drumming grounds at early dawn and march about with a pompous strut, uttering a drum-like um-boom-oom that may be heard for miles of a clear, frosty morning. The females sit quietly by in apparent indifference. The nest is made of old grass on the ground, preferably ín a clump of old weeds or willows. It shelters from ten to fourteen buffy olive, sometimes brown-specked eggs. The young are fed with grasshoppers and other in­sects. When run upon with her young, the mother bird feigns a broken wing and leads an unsuspecting urchin a vain chase. When she has tolled him far enough, in the attempt to catch her, the broken wing mends, and she sails away to the lad's undisguised astonishment. In autumn the entire covev enters the grain fields. The "prairie chicken" shares honors with the mallard in the esteem of sportsmen in the western wheat-raising States and provinces. This game bird suffers more from the destruction of nesting places than from dogs and guns, but, on the whole, the prairie hen bids fair to adapt itself to civilization.

   The sharp-tailed grouse keeps more to the north and west. It seeks shelter and wooded valleys in winter. The spruce hen is found in the evergreen thickets of lumbering districts. A similar grouse once common in the wooded districts of the Middle States is now found only in the oak woods of Martha's Vineyard where a sea wall has protected it from extermination.