[CT Birds] Readings 3

Dennis Varza dennisvz at optonline.net
Thu Aug 4 07:04:53 EDT 2011

Partridge, Ruffed Grouse
There is no doubt about it at all, here is the kettledrum of Nature’s  
orchestra! The talented performer can not be excelled in his  
wonderful accelerando even by the expert who manages the “kettles” in  
Theodore Thomas’s Orchestra. The “drum of the Partridge is a most  
mysterious practice of this favorite game bird. Nearly all of us have  
seen the Partridge, many of us have heard the drumming, but who —to  
quote William Hamilton Gibson — “who, will show us the drum?”

There has been no end of theorizing by eminent naturalists and others  
interested, regarding the way the Partridge drums his drum. But I  
thin all opinion may be set aside in the face of the fact that a  
sound is produced by the concussion of air caused by the rapid  
movement of the wings; the latter apparently striking the breast; in  
reality they do not, for close observation shows that the wings are  
brought considerably forward with the body of the birds is stretched  
to a position as nearly perpendicular as possible. One good view of a  
bird drumming ought to be sufficient demonstration of the fact that  
the air has everything to do with the case and the body little or  
nothing at all. It is the air that booms under the rapid lashing of  
the wings just as it is the air which sings in the baritone voice  
through the primaries of the Nighthawk’s wings as he drops like a  
shot through the sky.

Upon seeing the bird go through this remarkable performance one is  
struck with amazement, for at the end he subsides into utter  
quiescence instead of flying all to pieces! Why the stump or the rock  
on which he is perched is not at once covered with every feather from  
his body it is difficult to understand.

Dennis Varza

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