Walter the friendly grouse becomes man’s backyard companion

AP Strange

In this recent photo by Mary Beth Westward, a wild grouse, who is called “Walter” by their family, sits perched on the shoulder of Todd Westward, Mary Beth’s husband, outside their New London, N.H. home. The bird started hanging out in the family’s backyard last month and has since made itself a friendly fowl fixture in their yard. (Mary Beth Westward via AP)

NEW LONDON, N.H. (AP) — Some people are greeted by the family dog. For Todd Westward, it’s a ruffed grouse.

The bird started hanging out in the New London, New Hampshire, backyard last month with Westward while his family was away on a trip, his wife, Mary Beth Westward, posted in Facebook. Since then, the bird, named Walter, has made himself a fixture in the yard.

“I just thought it was a fluke before we left,” Mary Beth Westward said Friday. “While we were gone, this bird formed this crazy attachment. He was here every single day, all day long, following him.”

Walter has perched on her husband’s shoulder and arm, and has visited his backyard work station.

Mary Beth Westward said she’s gotten a lot of positive comments from her post, and heard some similar stories about social grouses.

She said she and the couple’s daughters don’t have the same bond with Walter. He appears to chase them away.

“He runs like a feathered velociraptor while he chases us down the driveway in our cars. And he goes back up and sits on the porch and pretends to be our watch-bird,” Westward wrote in her post.

The ruffed grouse is the state bird in Pennsylvania. The “tame” grouse phenomenon happens in the spring, during the peak breeding season, according to a video last year from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. One theory is that the grouse is acting hyper-territorial.

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