The Franklin's Grouse is a bird that resembles a chicken with a dark, stocky body and a short dark tail. The adults have a long square, black tail with small white spots on the overlying feathers. Males are mainly gray with a black breast with white bars, a black throat, and a red patch over the eye while females and young ones are mottled brown with dark and white bars on the underparts. Both sexes have a body length between 39cm - 40cm/15.4 - 15.7in and a wingspan of 57cm/22.7in while their average body weight is between 400g - 650g/14.1 - 22.9oz
Franklin's Grouse permanently reside in forests, particularly among those consisting of black spruce or jack pine with some moving a short distance by foot to a different location in winter. The females and young ones may reside at the edges of clear cuts, but tend to stay close to conifers. They occupy most parts of Canada and portions of the northern United States and breed in the boreal forests or taiga across Alaska and Canada.
Franklin's Grouse forage on the ground and in trees in winter during which their caeca, digestive sacs increase in size to support this bird's winter diet of conifer needles. They also feed on berries, green plants, and some insects in summer. Its crop can accommodate up to 10% of the bird's body weight in food, to be digested at night. The gastrointestinal organs of the Franklin's Grouse change seasonally due to change in diet with the gizzard growing by 75%, and other sections of the digestive tract increase in length by about 40% in winter, when the bird must eat more food to preserve its mass and energy balance.
Franklin's Grouse meat is mild tasting and has something of a liver taste.
Franklin's Grouse are polygamous birds that camouflage and stay still even when approached within a meter thus nicknamed 'Fool Hens' or in Alaska, 'Stupid Chicken'. However, they are very jumpy in winter months due to a lack of camouflage, flying away when approached within 6m to 45m. The males flutter their tails or wings during courtship. Following courtship with a polygamous male, the female selects a nesting site on the ground, under the low branches of a conifer tree or in brush. She then lays 7 to 8 eggs, which she incubates for about 24 days. The young ones grow their flight feathers and can fly by the time they are 10 to12 days old. They are less vocal compared to other grouse and make diverse calls, including hoots and clucks. They display and protect their territory by fanning and sweeping of the tail accompanied by wing claps, resembling gunshots. The male makes a drumming sound by flapping his wings while the territorial 'song'' made by the females is a long series of complex notes.
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