WOOD GROUSE (Tetrao urogallus). The cock of the wood, or wood grouse, is nearly as large as a turkey, was formerly plentiful in Ireland, where, as well as in England, it is no longer to be found. Mr. Pennant mentions one, as a very rare instance, which was shot near Inverness. In Russia and other northern countries, however, this noble and beautiful bird is not uncommon, living in the extensive pine forests, and feeding principally on the cones of the fir-tree, which, at certain seasons, renders the flavour of the bird too strong to be palatable; plants and berries, particularly the juniper, are also its food: it is known sometimes wholly to strip one tree of its cones, while the next remains untouched. The female lays from eight to sixteen eggs ; eight at first, and more as they advance in age ; they are of a white colour, spotted with yellow, larger than those of the domestic hen, and are accounted a greater delicacy than the eggs of any other bird: these are deposited on the ground upon moss, in some dry spot, where the female can sit in security. The chicks follow the mother as soon as they are hatched, and, as partridges are sometimes known to do, often with part of the egg-shell attached to them.
The bill of the male is of a dusky horn colour, very strong, and convex ; the irides hazel, and over the eye is a naked red skin; the nostrils small, and covered with short dusky feathers, which extend under the throat, and are there much longer than the rest, and of a black colour; the head and neck are ashcoloured, elegantly marked with transverse narrow blackish lines; the upper parts of the body and wings of a dark chestnut, irregularly marked with blackish lines ; the feathers at the setting on of the wings white; the breast of a fine glossy blackish green ; the tail consists of eighteen black feathers, those on the sides marked with a few white spots; the legs are covered with feathers, and the edges of the toes pectinated.
The female is considerably less than the male, and differs from him greatly in her colours: the head, neck, and back marked with transverse bars of orange, red, and black; the throat red; the breast pale orange; the belly barred with orange and black, and the tips of the feathers white: the back and wings mottled with reddish brown and black; the tail of a deep rust colour, barred with black, and tipped with white. When displayed, the white forms a circle.
This fine bird is not unfrequently sent from St. Petersburgh to London, its flesh being esteemed one of the greatest dainties.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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