I found this male Spruce Grouse picking grit along a remote dirt logging road in northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest in early September 2012. He then flew up into some Tamaracks and began feeding on the needles. In summer they eat insects, blueberries, leaves and other berries. In fall and winter they switch to a diet of conifer needles. Tamaracks are utilized in fall before they lose their needles in mid to late October. Black Spruce and Jack Pine needles are the preferred winter food. They can store up to 10% of their body weight in needles in their crop. The slow digestion of this food during the long northern nights helps keep them warm. The grit picked from the road helps the gizzard break down the needles. I once found a road-kill Spruce Grouse and dissected it. I found that that individual only picked white/clear quartz stones for its grit....Maybe it instinctively knew that the quartz is very hard with sharp corners and would be a great needle grinder.
Shot with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 and 1.4x telextender on tripod. Camo netting over me and camera for stealthy approach.
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