By Penelope Smart, Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Artist: Roger Kakepetum Title: Untitled Date: 1985 Medium: Acrylic on paper Size: 24 3/16 × 19 5/16 in. Donated by Dr. James Donaldson and Mrs. Ann Donaldson Aportrait of a plump bird on a pine branch is a good fit for fall. Better yet, a bird that can kick up quite a racket “drumming” is a great choice for this issue. While I can’t be 100% sure, this bird is most likely a ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), which is a mid-sized grouse native to North America. Many people, including myself, have memories of walking in the woods with family, including the dog, on the lookout for these birds during the fall hunting season. Their brown, grey, and white plumage is highly effective camouflage and their distinctive whitetipped tail feathers are used as decorative materials. While these woodland birds spend most of their time on the ground in thick brush, they are known to perch in trees, too. The artist, Roger Kakepetum, is from Sandy Lake First Nation. He paints in the Woodland style and has a knack for capturing forest animals in their natural state. This painting is a recent donation to our permanent collection. Did you know that the ruffed grouse is often incorrectly called a “partridge” and confused with the grey partridge, which is a different species of game bird that was introduced to North America? Interestingly, the ruffed grouse is the only species in the genus Bonasa. I’ve also heard children call this creature a “ruffled grouse,” which isn’t entirely inaccurate as the bird appears to have layers of white, brown, and grey plumage—not to mention that when the male displays his tail feathers, it is quite a show. If you’re going to call this beautiful, chunky bird anything other than a grouse, try the nickname “thunder chicken” instead, which refers to the drumming sound the male ruffed grouse makes to declare his property rights.