I've seen many of these over the years. Once I was following a friend into the woods at Smugglers Notch when a grouse took off from between the tails of his skis! I have also nearly stepped on them while snowshoeing. Snow is an amazing insulator. On the Yukon Delta in Alaska, Ptarmigan pellet piles are evident all around any cover. Piles are especially evident in spring after a whole winter of this activity. Their droppings likely act as a concentrated fertilizer for the willows up there.

-Noel Dodge
Bolton, VT
Georgetown, ME

-----Original Message-----
From: Vermont Birds [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Eric Seyferth
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011 5:58 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VTBIRD] burrowing birds?

I have been startled by grouse as they explode from the snow near where I am walking. Inspection of the site reveals a cavity a bit bigger than the grouse and about as deep as the bird with its neck extended with droppings in the bottom. I have also found similar unoccupied cavities with either wing marks or tracks leading from it. 

Eric Seyferth 

Bennington, VT 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Patti Haynes" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:06:24 PM
Subject: [VTBIRD] burrowing birds? 

Have any of you seen evidence that Ruffed Grouse actually burrow in the snow? 

I have just started reading *Winter World* by Bernd Heinrich. In his chapter on snow and subnivian space he claims that Grouse and other birds actually burrow under the snow: -- " in the Maine woods I routinely find over thirty fecal pellets (in these snow shelters) where a ruffed grouse has spent the night. Often these birds also stay the day in their shelter, because on snowy, cold days I have flushed them out from underfoot under the snow even at noon." 

I have seen snow accumulate on birds, but I had never heard of them burrowing in it. 

Your thoughts or observations? 

Moretown Village