A Partridge in a Pear Tree? Unlikely, in Connecticut

Dec 24, 2013

Alex Brash, president of Connecticut Audubon Society, said, "Our forests are aging and our landscape [is] less diverse, which means that many of Connecticut’s most beautiful birds, such as Ruffed Grouse, are disappearing."
Credit Ybou photos / Creative Commons

The Connecticut Audubon Society says that if state residents plan to give their true love a partridge in a pear tree on the first day of Christmas this year, they're likely to be disappointed.

Partridges have become so rare in Connecticut over the last two decades that it might be easier to find two French hens, or three Turtle Doves, than a partridge -- known more commonly here as the Ruffed Grouse.

These birds require young forests with young trees for nesting, but Connecticut’s forests are too old. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates that while 60 percent of the state is covered by forest, only five percent is early-stage forest.

One of the best ways to gauge the decline of Ruffed Grouse in the state is through the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. In the 1970s, Connecticut Christmas Bird Counts averaged 160 grouse per year. That rose in the 1980s, but by the late 1990s, the number had declined to only 43 Ruffed Grouse in 1998. By 2010, there was just one in Litchfield County.

In light of this, Connecticut Audubon Society has a major effort underway to manage its sanctuaries and encourage a greater diversity of birds.

Watch Dr. Linda Ordiway of the Ruffed Grouse Society, based in Pennsylvania, explain Ruffed Grouse habitat and biology: