Brood cover is a critical component of ruffed grouse habitat during a period when chick mortality may be high. We compared microhabitat characteristics at ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) brood locations with random locations to determine characteristics selected by females with broods in the Appalachian region of Virginia and West Virginia. Females with broods used forested sites with a well-developed overstory canopy (>70%). These sites had a higher abundance of arthropods in the first 3 wk after hatch (P = 0.02), taller ground cover (P < 0.1) and higher percent ground cover (P < 0.1) in the first 6 wk after hatch than random sites. Total woody stem densities were not different (P > 0.1) between brood and random sites as has been found in several studies from more northern sites. Most management prescriptions for ruffed grouse brood habitat are based on increasing hardwood stem densities; our results suggest alternative habitat management techniques that promote ground cover, such as prescribed burning and forest stand thinning, may be more appropriate in the southern Appalachian region.
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Vol. 150 • No. 1