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Wisconsin ruffed grouse drumming down, waterfowl count up

Grouse numbers may have peaked and started dropping as part of roughly 10-year cycle.

ruffed grouse
This year's spring drumming count of ruffed grouse in Wisconsin was down about 5% from last year.
Contributed / Wisconsin DNR
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MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources this week announced the annual spring drumming survey of ruffed grouse showed below-average counts while the spring waterfowl breeding survey indicates good numbers and excellent habitat conditions.

DNR wildlife biologists reported a 5% decrease statewide in ruffed grouse drumming activity from 2021.

“These results are not surprising. Ruffed grouse typically follow a 10-year population cycle,” said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife surveys specialist. “While we don’t have data for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, we know that cycles usually peak in years ending in 9, 0 or 1. We’re likely going to see that abundance begin to wane in the coming years as we enter the down phase of the cycle.”

During the spring mating ritual, male ruffed grouse beat their wings slowly and then more rapidly to create a deep, drumming sound. Surveyors listen to this sound to identify and count male ruffed grouse each spring.

The annual breeding waterfowl survey showed stable to increasing numbers for two of the state’s primary breeding waterfowl, mallards and blue-winged teal. The third primary species, wood ducks, showed a slight decline. The survey team also reported above-average wetland conditions thanks to ample rainfall.


Survey results point to a promising season this fall for Wisconsin waterfowl hunters. Surveyors estimate the state’s breeding duck population at 591,762 birds, a 6% increase over the 2021 estimate and 34% over the long-term average. Canada goose numbers are up as well compared to 2021, consistent with the stable to increasing population seen over the past 10-15 years.

You can find more on wildlife surveys on the DNR's wildlife reports webpage at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/reports.html.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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