Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
TETRAO PHASIANELLUS, Linn.
PLATE CCXCVIII.--MALE AND FEMALE.
This is another species of our birds with the habits of which I am entirely
unacquainted. Dr. RICHARDSON's account of it is as follows:--"The northern
limit of the range of the Sharp-tailed Grouse is Great Slave Lake, in the
sixty-first parallel; and its most southern recorded station is in latitude 41
degrees, on the Missouri. It abounds on the outskirts of the Saskatchewan
plains, and is found throughout the woody districts of the Fur Countries,
haunting open glades or low thickets on the borders of lakes, particularly in
the neighbourhood of the trading paths, where the forests have been partially
cleared. In winter it perches generally on trees, in summer is much on the
ground; in both seasons assembling in coveys of from ten to sixteen. Early in
spring, a family of these birds select a level spot, whereon they meet every
morning, and run round in a circle of fifteen or twenty feet in diameter, so
that the grass is worn quite bare. When any one approaches the circle, the
birds squat close to the ground, but in a short time stretch out their necks to
survey the intruder; and, if they are not scared by a nearer advance, soon
resume their circular course, some running to the right, others to the left,
meeting and crossing each other. These "Partridge dances" last for a month or
more, or until the hens begin to hatch. When the Sharp-tailed Grouse are put
up, they rise with the usual whirring noise, and alight again at the distance of
a few hundred yards, either on the ground or on the upper branches of a tree.
Before the cock quits his perch, he utters repeatedly the cry of cuck, cuck,
cuck. In winter they roost in the snow like the Willow Grouse, and they can
make their way through the loose wreaths with ease. They feed on the buds and
sprouts of the Betula glandulosa, of various willows, and of the aspen and
larch; and in autumn on berries. Mr. HUTCHINS says that the hen lays thirteen
white eggs, with coloured spots, early in June; the nest being placed on the
ground and formed of grass, lined with feathers."
Mr. TOWNSEND informs me that while crossing the north branch of the Platte
(Lorimie's Fork), he found this species breeding, and that as an article of food
it proved to be a very well-flavoured and plump bird, considerably superior to
any of the other large species that occur in the United States.
TETRAO PHASIANELLUS, Bonap. Amer. Orn., vol. iii. p. 37.
TETRAO PHASIANELLUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 127.
TETRAO (CENTROCERUS) PHASIANELLUS, SHARP-TAILED GROUSE, Swains. and
Rich. F. Bor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 361.
SHARP-TAILED GROUSE, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 669.
SHARP-TAILED GROUSE, Tetrao Phasianellus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv. p. 569.
Male, 17 1/2, 23.
Missouri, lat. 41 degrees, to Slave Lake, lat. 61 degrees. Rocky
Mountains. Abundant on the Saskatchewan Plains. Accidental in the northern
parts of Illinois. Resident.
Bill short, strong, as broad as high; upper mandible with the dorsal line
arcuato-declinate, the ridge narrow at the base on account of the great extent
of the nasal sinus, which is feathered, the sides convex toward the end, the
edges overlapping and thin, the tip declinate and blunt, but thin-edged; lower
mandible with the angle of moderate length and width, the dorsal line ascending
and convex, the edges sharp and inclinate, the tip obtuse.
Head rather small, oblong; neck of moderate length; body full. Feet rather
short, stout; tarsus roundish, feathered, bare and reticulated behind. Toes of
moderate size, with numerous scutella above, but covered over at the base by the
hair-like feathers which grow from the sides and the intervening basal
membranes, laterally pectinate with long, slender, projecting, flattened scales;
first toe small, second a little longer than fourth, third much longer. Claws
slender, arched, moderately compressed, rather obtuse; that of the third toe
with the inner edge dilated.
Plumage dense, soft, rather compact, the feathers in general broadly ovate;
those on the head and upper part of the neck short, but some on the upper and
hind part of the former elongated and forming a slight crest. There is a
papillate coloured membrane over the eye, as in the other species; and on each
side of the neck is a large bare space, concealed by the plumage, which I have
no doubt is inflated, as in Tetrao Cupido and T. Urophasianus, during the love
season. Wings rather short, concave, much rounded; the primaries stiff and very
narrow, so as to leave large intervals when the wing is extended; the third
quill longest, the fourth next, the second shorter than the fifth, the sixth
longer than the first. Tail short, much graduated, of sixteen feathers, of
which the lateral are three inches shorter than the central; all the feathers
are more or less concave, excepting the two middle worn along the inner edge,
obliquely and abruptly terminated, the two middle projecting an inch beyond the
Bill dusky above, brown beneath; iris light hazel; superciliary membrane
vermilion; toes brownish-grey, claws brownish-black. The upper parts are
variegated with light red or brownish-orange, brownish-black and white; the
black occupying the central part of the feathers, the light red forming angular
processes from the margin, generally dotted with black, and a lighter bar near
the end; the white being in terminal, triangular, or guttiform spots on the
scapulars and wing-coverts. The alula, primary coverts, secondary coverts and
quills are greyish-brown, the coverts spotted and tipped with white; the
primaries with white spots on the outer web, the inner tipped with white, as are
all the secondaries, of which the outer have two bars of white spots, and the
inner are coloured like the back. The tail is white, at the base variegated,
and the two middle feathers like the back. Loral space, and a line behind the
eye, white; a dusky streak beneath the eye, succeeded by a light coloured one.
The throat is reddish-white, with some dusky spots; the fore part and sides of
the neck barred with dusky and reddish-white; on the lower part of the neck and
fore part of the breast, the dusky bars become first curved, and then
arrow-shaped, and so continue narrowing on the hind part of the breast, and part
of the sides, of which the upper portion is barred; the abdomen, lower
tail-coverts, axillar feathers, and most of the lower wing-coverts, white. The
hair-like feathers of the tarsi are light brownish-grey, faintly barred with
Length to end of tail 17 1/2 inches, to end of wings 14, to end of claws
17, extent of wings 23; wing from flexure 8 1/4, tail 4 1/2; bill along the
ridge (10 1/2)/12; along the edge of lower mandible 1 (1 1/2)/12; tarsus
1 (7 1/2)/12; hind toe 6/12, its claw 6/12; middle toe 1 (7 1/2)/12, its claw
The female is considerably smaller, but is coloured like the male, the
tints being duller.