Be a hero. Count some bird poop for Minnesota.

The spruce grouse could be the Rodney Dangerfield of the northern forest — it does not get a lot respect — also known as “idiot’s hen” as a result of they have a tendency to not fly away when approached.

They are not notably sought-after by hunters; some say their meat tastes like pine needles. They are not uncommon sufficient to get most birders excited they usually stay in very dense, evergreen forests the place most individuals do not wander.

Thus we do not know an entire lot about spruce grouse. Actually, whereas the fowl exists throughout a lot of Canada and the far northern tier of U.S. states, till now nobody has developed an correct technique to determine their inhabitants tendencies.

“That is actually the primary effort to precisely monitor inhabitants dynamics for the japanese subspecies of spruce grouse,” stated Grand Rapids-based mostly DNR grouse researcher Charlotte Roy.

Spruce grouse do not actually drum, like male ruffed grouse in spring, so there’s been no method to verify if their numbers are going up or down, and even the place in Minnesota they reside, just by listening within the woods.

“Spruce grouse females do a cantus name (to draw males) within the spring. However not all of them do it and it is just for a brief interval. We discovered it isn’t very dependable,” stated Roy. “However you possibly can inform the distinction between a spruce grouse fecal pellet and a ruffed grouse pellet fairly simply, so we will rely pellets.”

Straightforward, necessary work for volunteers

For the report, spruce grouse fecal pellets are often greenish-black as a result of their weight-reduction plan of spruce, balsam fir and pine needles. The pellets are additionally lengthy and slender. Ruffed grouse pellets are yellowish-brown, shorter and fatter.

One of the best time to look is in late winter and early spring, because the snow begins to soften. The winter’s accumulation of pellets is uncovered, often intact.

“The pellets are surprisingly seen. There could be a whole lot of them in the event you look in the best locations,” Roy stated. “And (volunteers) do not have to be on the market on any actual date or situation. Simply earlier than the snow melts.”

To ensure volunteers look in the proper locations, coaching periods shall be held in February or March. Volunteers want solely decide to at some point every spring to survey two tracts, however they’re requested to maintain up the dedication for 3 years to scale back retraining.

A GPS unit with hooked up digital camera might be offered for the survey day.

Already shifting north?

DNR and different researchers have been on the lookout for spruce grouse pellets for 4 years, together with assist from tribal pure assets employees and wildlife…

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