Grouse of the World
Grouse are a source of fascination for people, not least for their spectacular displays and ability to survive the Arctic winter. To survive the extreme cold the birds have evolved pectinations, or shovels, on their toes to excavate burrows in the snow in which they spend up to 22 hours or more daily. To reduce heat loss they have feathered toes and also feathered nostrils which prevent the nostrils filling with snow and also trapping moisture when the bird is in its burrow. Without this moisture trap the walls of the burrow would become iced, preventing air from seeping in and the bird from escaping, sealing it in a an icy air-starved tomb. The digestive system of grouse has also evolved to compensate for winter rigours. Perhaps most remarkable though, is the fact that these specific features are shared by all members of the grouse family, even those that inhabit the balmy shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This title explores grouse evolution and then looks at each of the 19 species, detailing distribution, habitat, plumage, subspecies, breeding, diet and conservation.