A grouse showed up in our yard the other day.

A grouse showed up in our yard the other day.

At least, we think she's a grouse. She could be a hen turkey or even a pheasant -- a pheasant without tail feathers, my husband stipulates. She's a large brown bird with black speckles and a mild personality.

Her very brownness suggests she's a female -- male birds so often go in for those vivid colors and splashy feathers, like custom-painted street rods; females rarely bother.

And before you ask "How do you know she has a mild personality?" let me say this bird impressed us right away with her gentle demeanor and impeccable manners.

She may be alone in the world now, but she certainly was well brought up by somebody.

I was the first to see the bird.

She was standing quietly under our pear tree, breakfasting on pears and looking around at the early morning. It was barely dawn, but she gave the impression of being fully dressed, right down to black pumps and a little piece of lace at her throat.

I was some yards away and for several moments I forgot my own manners and frankly stared.

She's not enormous if a person is expecting to see a chicken-sized bird in her yard, but all I'd seen lately in mine were killdeer.

Killdeer, in case you haven't run across any lately, are medium-sized birds at best, and although they may be as hardy as lumberjacks, they're physically spindly birds; they look like an errant breeze might send them pinwheeling away.

Now here was this chicken-sized bird. She got my attention.

I waited a moment, hoping to see the bird's wingspan when she noticed the dog, who fortunately was on a leash. But she didn't notice the dog.

Of course she didn't. I realized my mistake after the bird walked back into the cornfield that borders our yard. Although she perambulated in a style that can only be described as jerky chicken, gliding peacock, she nevertheless exited with a self-possession that denied the very existence of excitable dogs. She didn't so much as throw a glance our way.

Since then, we've seen the grouse -- if she is a grouse -- several times.

One evening, we saw from the kitchen window that she had found her way to our compost pile and was standing on top of it, no doubt enjoying the view from that extremity. Another time, my husband saw her in a flowerbed east of our house and pointed her out to me.

She was -- contrary to her earlier poise -- running in agitated circles, exactly like a person who has just received bad news. After that, we didn't see her for a couple of days.

"Maybe she took the next flight out," my husband suggested.

We both were relieved when she reappeared in the same flowerbed while my husband was mowing the lawn.

Perhaps because he was on a large noisy machine, the grouse emerged from the shelter of a large pine and stood watching him fearlessly as he circled the yard.

Obviously, she's a grouse with a lively intellect and a curious mind.

If, of course, she is a grouse.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer: E-mail mbartlett@ thisweeknews.com.

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