Moorfowl is Fair, in Highland Heather

Red Grouse:  Moorfowl is Fair, in Highland Heather

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“For the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.” (1st Samuel 26:20b)

As noted in a previous blogpost, in “Fowl are Fair on Day 5”, the Holy Bible’s  “partridge” (which is mentioned in 1st Samuel 26:20) is a type of galliform (i.e., chicken/partridge/quail/pheasant/turkey/peafowl-like ground-dwelling bird.

Other examples of galliforms include the partridge-like birds we call “grouse”. (See also “Rock Partridges:  Lessons about Hunting and Hatching”.

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RED GROUSE in Scotland   (Simply Birds and Moths photograph)

The RED GROUSE is a variety of fast-flying WILLOW PTARMIGAN, often camouflaged within Scotland’s heather scrublands, sporting reddish-brown plumage (with white feathered legs underneath, that somewhat resemble rabbit feet!), yet accented by scarlet “eyebrows”.   It is often hunted in Scotland, by humans as part of a regulated sport, as well as by birds of prey, to the extent that they are present in Scotland heather moors.

The Red Grouse has been described as follows:

“The Red Grouse … of the British Isles [is] a race of the Willow Ptarmigan … coloured entirely chestnut-brown, winter as well as summer. [It] presses itself low to the ground when danger threatens. … [Its habitat is] open taiga, bushy tundra, marshes and moors with willow, birch and dwarf scrub; generally at lower altitudes than [other varieties of] Ptarmigan.  … [For food, it eat] leaves, buds and berries of dwarf shrubs, especially billberries, cranberries and crowberries; in winter buds and leaves of dwarf birch; in order to get at their food plants, the birds dig long tunnels in the snow.  Red Grouse eats mainly heather shoots.”

[Quoting Jürgen Nicolai, Detlef Singer, & Konrad Wothe, BIRDS OF BRITAIN & EUROPE (Harper Collins/Collin  Nature Guides, 2000; translated from German & adapted by Ian Dawson), page 144.]

Red Grouse, as well as other varieties of Willow Ptarmigan, are ground-fowl found in cool scrublands of Earth’s northern habitats, in lands as widespread as Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Canada, and Alaska. [See Wikipedia-posted range map of the Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), with indigo blue showing year-round residency ranges.]

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   Range Map for Willow Ptarmigans  (Wikipedia)

In fact, the Willow Ptarmigan is Alaska’s official state bird, specifically the winter-white-dominated Lagopus lagopus alascensis variety.

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Willow Ptarmigan (Alaska variety) in winter white   [Wikipedia/public domain]

The reddish-brown plumage of the RED CROUSE is well-suited for residing in the heather fields of Scotland. Of course, despite its helpful camouflage, the Red Grouse is a resident well known to Scottish Highland hunters!

“As the rail network opened up the Highlands in the late 19th century, so it because possible for many more people to come from the south to join shooting parties on moors specifically managed for red grouse.  . . . The long-term decline in grouse numbers  [especially Scotland’s RED GROUSE (Lagopus lagopus scotica), a Scottish variety of Willow Ptarmigan, a/k/a “Moorfowl”,  a ground-fowl accustomed to heather-moor habitat] began in the 1930s – way before birds of prey began to recover [in Scotland, from] egg collectors and keepers [i.e., wildlife-regulating game wardens].  This, in part, is related to the loss of high-quality moorland to [agricultural] grass as sheep densities have increased.”

[Quoting Niall Benvie, “Red Grouse”, in SCOTLAND’S WILDLIFE (National Trust of Scotland, via Aurum Press, 2004), page 28.]

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RED GROUSE in Scottish heather moorland   (Scottish Nature Heritage)

Of course, the Red Grouse is wild, so it is fair game – pardon the pun – to be photographed by nature photographers, such as Niall Benvie, Scottish author of THE ART OF NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY (and other similar books). Once Mr. Benvie was preparing to photograph a strolling Red Grouse, as he recalls:

 “I once met such a bird [i.e., a Red Grouse] in a quiet glen near [my] home.  As I edged my car closer [preparing my camera to take a photograph of the grouse], I was grateful that, for once, my subject [i.e., the Red Grouse who was approaching] wasn’t camera-shy.  I glanced in the rearview mirror only to see, to my dismay, a woman walking up the narrow road behind me.  As she passed the car I withdrew my camera and prepared to leave [ — assuming that her approach would frighten off the grouse, thus spoiling my opportunity to photograph the avian pedestrian].”

[Quoting Niall Benvie, “Red Grouse”, in SCOTLAND’S WILDLIFE (National Trust of Scotland, via Aurum Press, 2004), page 28.]

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RED GROUSE on Scottish roadway   (Scottish Gamekeepers Association photograph)

Of course, as a wildlife photographer, Niall Benvie is bothered by human intrusions into the “wild” world of this tranquil ground-fowl. If the Red Grouse doesn’t bother humans, why should humans interfere with the Red Grouse’s habitat in the Highlands?  Yet this perspective has its flaws, as the following anecdotal report (from Niall Benvie) illustrates.

“But the grouse, rather than [squawking] loudly and whirring off over the moor, began walking up the road to meet her. He [i.e., the Red Grouse] pecked furiously at her [shoe]-laces, and she bent down, picked him up and held him in her arms!  She was the local keeper’s wife [i.e., game warden’s wife], and [she] knew this first year bird well [and obviously the bird knew well that he could trust her to pick him up caringly].

[Quoting Niall Benvie, “Red Grouse”, in SCOTLAND’S WILDLIFE (National Trust of Scotland, via Aurum Press, 2004), page 28.]

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RED GROUSE in Northumberland field   (Hawsen Burn photograph)

Although that one-year-old Red Grouse was “wild”, it obviously remembered some kind of kindness form the game warden’s wife.

So much for condemning the meddling “interference” of kind-hearted humans!


 

Fowl Are Fair on Day 5

Fowl Are Fair on Day Five, with Special Attention to Galliforms

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

RedJunglefowl.Gallus-gallus-FredericPelsey

Red Junglefowl (wild equivalent of domestic chicken) Frederic Pelsey photo

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl [‘ôph] that may fly [ye‘ôphēph] above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.  And God created great whales [tannînim ha-gadolîm], and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl [‘ôph kanaph] after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl [‘ôph] multiply in the earth. (Genesis 1:20-22)

In the Holy Bible, King James Version, the term “fowl” is repeatedly used to denote birds in general – animals who fly with wings and feathers. Nowadays, however, we usually limit the term “fowl” to refer to “waterfowl” (like ducks) or landfowl, like chickens.  The latter category – landfowl – are, generally speaking, birds that stay close to the ground because their body plan is fairly heavy (which is not good for intense or prolonged flying), like chickens or turkeys.  The fancy term for these landfowl is GALLIFORM, meaning shaped like a chicken.

Accordingly, God is glorified by His creation of poultry (domesticated chicken-like birds) and similar landfowl (a/k/a “gamefowl”), both being taxonomically categorized as Galliforms (i.e., birds whose physical forms that resemble big or small chickens).

Galliforms, as large ground-dwelling birds, are well-known for eating seeds and insects (both of which are often found on or near the ground). As noted above, their body weight encumbers them from flying very much or very far, although they can and do fly short distances when needed.  When chased, by predators, they often run and hide (as is indicated in 1st Samuel 26:18 & 26:20).  These often-domesticated birds include chicken, quails, pheasants, tragopans, argus, grouse, guineafowl, incubator birds, craciforms (such as guan, chachalaca and curassow), ptarmigan, turkey, and peafowl.  1st-Samuel26.20-partridge-slide

The typical icon of the galliform group (according to taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, in A.D. 1758) is Gallus gallus, a label assigned to both Asia’s wild Junglefowl and the domestic Chicken.  Many of these birds, especially chickens and turkeys, are raised by humans, for their eggs or to be eaten (as meat).  CodfishLays1000000Eggs-poem

As we know from Scripture (Luke 11:12-13), poultry eggs are a truly good source of nutrition for humans, and the whites (albumen) of eggs taste better when seasoned with salt (Job 6:6).

Galliform birds mostly live mostly sedentary lives (although some seasonally migrate) in moderate climate zones of Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Australia, and many islands. (Don’t expect to find them in the super-dry Sahara Desert or in super-cold Antarctica.)

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AMERICAN TURKEYS Schuylkill Center for Envir’l Educ’n photo

Some of these poultry birds are usually found only live in certain parts of the world (such as wild turkeys, which are biogeographically native only to North and South America), yet they can be introduced (as immigrants) to other places that have similar climates.  Because landfowl usually nest on or near the ground they are often victims to predators, including humans; accordingly it is important to avoid over-hunting them (and over-harvesting their eggs); this conservation-relevant reality (and concern) is acknowledged by Moses in Deuteronomy 22:6-7.

Amazingly, the Lord Jesus once compared His own willingness and ability, to care and protect humans, to that of a galliform – specifically, a mother hen — who uses her own body to protectively care for her own hatchling baby chicks (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).    How good it is to belong to Him forever!

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LUKE 13:34 (Knowing-Jesus.com image)