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What Is Pennsylvania’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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Ruffed Grouse on log

Pennsylvania is home to many famous symbols, including Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that predicts the coming of spring each year. The state animal is the white-tailed deer, and the state flower is the beautiful mountain laurel. Less well-known is the state bird, the Roughed Grouse. If you live in this state or are planning to visit, keep reading as we look at these interesting birds to learn more about them and find out how such a prestigious title.

Ruffed Grouse — Pennsylvania State Bird

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs started the campaign to adopt the Ruffed Grouse as the state bird, and they succeeded on June 22, 1931. It’s popular as a game bird in many parts of the country, and despite it being the state bird, there are no laws in Pennsylvania that prevent you from hunting it. The Ruffed Grouse is related to the Turkey, and many people also call it a Partridge. It spends much of its time looking for seeds and insects on the forest floor, usually not far from a stream. It prefers areas that are growing back after a recent fire or logging operation. The male likes to stand on a log and beat its wings to mark its territory, and it enjoys a solitary lifestyle during the spring but often becomes part of a flock during the winter.

ruffed grouse

Image Credit: Nadia Lapointe, Pixabay

Why Is the Ruffed Grouse the State Bird of Pennsylvania?

It’s not 100% clear why the General Federation of Women’s Clubs chose the Ruffed Grouse as the state bird of Pennsylvania, but it likely has to do with its important use as a food supply. In the earlier days of the state, hunting was the next central part of life, and the Ruffed Grouse was quite plentiful throughout Pennsylvania, especially in wooded areas. These birds are still hunted heavily in states like Maine and Minnesota, where commercial licenses allow hunters to remove half a million birds each year.

Ruffed Grouse Description

The Ruffed Grouse is a medium-sized bird weighing between 1 and 1 ¾ pounds. It can reach 20 inches from head to tail, and the wingspan is usually about 24 inches. It can be either grey or brown. It will have a grey-brown top half with a light grey underside if it’s the grey variety. Most of the plumage will be uniformly brown, with white patches on its sides if it’s the brown variety. Both the male and female look quite similar, with the primary difference being in the tail. Males have unbroken tail bands, while females have a subterminal tail band. The ruff is a long band of black or brown feathers around the neck on the males.

ruffed grouse perching

Image Credit: Gerald A. DeBoer, Shutterstock

Summary

The Pennsylvania state bird is the Ruffed Grouse, a medium-sized bird related to the wild Turkey. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs appointed it the state bird in 1931, likely due to its importance as a food supply in the state’s early days.


Featured Image Credit: Steve Oehlenschlager, Shutterstock

About the Author Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.

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