[Martha Fischer, Audio Archivist, Cornell Lab of Ornithology] Hearing a grouse drumming is, it’s just a cool experience. You’ll be walking out in the woods and especially if you’re fairly close to a log and you start hearing this thumping. The sound is so low it’s hard to describe, but it’s really, it’s one that you feel more than you hear. Males find logs, we call them drumming logs, where they can get up to do their audio display. If you can imagine seeing this bird, which is really hard to see a bird drumming because it’s hard to find the log because these guys are very, very shy. Each of the thumps that you hear is the bird beating his wings. So, one thump is one beat of his wings, and as he gets going the wings beat faster and faster until it makes that brrrrr sound. I did have an opportunity to listen to a grouse through headphones with a microphone right beside the log. I could hear the grouse walk up to the log and then hop on to it. And then he started drumming and it just blew my mind, it was just the coolest thing just to be up close and personal with this grouse. It was really neat. [Audio recording: Jonathan R. Storm; Photographs: Marie Read, Gerrit Vyn]

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The male Ruffed Grouse uses his wings and a hollow log to perform his impressive mate attraction display. Through a series of increasingly fast wingbeats, the bird creates sudden changes in air pressure that make a rhythmic low-frequency sound. Listen and learn as Lab audio archivist Martha Fisher recounts her experience with the elusive Ruffed Grouse.