Chinese grouse (Bonasa sewerzowi)

Also known as: Severtsov’s grouse
GenusBonasa (1)
SizeSize: 34 cm (2)
Average male weight: 341 g (3)
Average female weight: 315 g (3)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

The smallest grouse in the world (3), this rufous-coloured bird has a black throat bordered with white, and a conspicuous white patch behind its eye. Remarkably similar to the hazel grouse (B. bonasia), the Chinese grouse can be distinguished by its upperparts being more broadly barred with black, its upper breast displaying greater chestnut colour, and by the different pattern of barring on its tail (2).

Known from the mountains of central and south-west China and eastern Tibet (4) (5).

Found in birch and coniferous mountain forest, generally above 1,000 m above sea level, and up to 4,000 m in Tibet (2) (4).

The Chinese grouse is thought to be primarily monogamous, with females choosing their mate from a selection of competing males from late March through to May. Males hold territories and perform a ‘flutter-jump’ behaviour that is believed to advertise their territory and attract females (6). Five to eight eggs are laid from the end of May through to June in a grass and moss nest at the base of a tree, in a tree stump or on a rocky ledge (2).

After broods disperse around mid-October, most birds abandon their territories and begin to form flocks of around four to five individuals, particularly young males and females. Flock size increases to 13 or 14 in early December, although this appears to vary with habitat and food availability (7).

The Chinese grouse forages on the ground or in trees (2), feeding on spruce seeds, the buds and leaves of willow and birch, and the flowers, leaves and shoots of a variety of other shrubs and herbs (5).

The Chinese grouse is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of China’s forests (4) due to high demands for farmland, timber and firewood (5). The result has been the isolation of a number of Chinese grouse populations in small forest fragments (5), and worse still, its complete disappearance from eastern Qinghai and central Gansu, China (2) (4). Illegal hunting and egg collecting may be locally common, but the effects of poaching on populations are considered to be low (5), since a population studied in Lianhuashan Natural Reserve (Gansu Province) between 1995 and 2000 remained stable despite egg-harvesting by local people (4). However, outside of protected areas, exploitation may have a more significant impact (5).

The Chinese grouse is protected throughout its range and can be found in several protected areas, deemed critically important to the bird’s long-term survival. Various studies have been made of the bird’s ecology, biology and distribution, revealing information vital to its conservation. Of particular importance is the recent research conducted by Dr. Yue-Hua Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at Beijing into how well the species is able to cope with fragmented habitats (5). Hopefully, findings from the study will help guide appropriate and effective conservation measures in the future to ensure the long-term survival of the world’s smallest grouse.

For more information on the Chinese grouse see:

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Sun, Y-H. & Fang, Y. (1997) Notes on the natural history and behaviour of the Chinese grouse Bonasa sewerzowi. Wildlife Biology, 3: 265 - 268.

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)