What Grouse Eat in Winter
Throughout the Northeast and upper Midwest, the dormant buds of mature male aspen ("popple") and birch trees make up the bulk of a grouse's winter diet. Highbush cranberry is another northern favorite, since berries might remain on its twigs through winter. To conserve their energy, the birds often select feeding areas near their overnight roosts. Areas where mature aspen or birch overlaps with snowbanks, conifers, or storm damage will hold grouse nearby. Don't forget to look up, as grouse will perch high in aspen trees to eat buds. If your dog acts birdy but can't locate the bird, it might be "budding" right over your head. In the southern Appalachians, grouse eat hop hornbeam buds, mountain laurel, white oak acorns, clover, hazelnuts, sumac berries, and even dried-up wild grape, teaberry and greenbrier. Many of these species are concentrated along stream courses, logging roads or meadow edges.