New Hampshire Man Becomes Best Friends with a Wild Grouse: 'He Pretends to Be Our Watch-Bird'
Walter the ruffed grouse began pecking around Todd Westward's backyard while his wife and daughters were on vacation — now, they hang out every day
While Mary Beth Westward and her two daughters were on vacation last month, her husband Todd made an unexpected new friend: a wild ruffed grouse.
The small, feathered bird started sporadically pecking around the Westwards' New London, New Hampshire backyard in April, Westward tells PEOPLE. However, when the girls left for their May trip, the bird — whom the family affectionately named Walter — began following Todd as he did yard work outside.
"It was kind of comical," Westward says. "He would wait for him on the side porch in the morning, follow him down the driveway … he even flew up to the roof while Todd was up there doing work!"
In the last few weeks, their friendship has only grown stronger: Walter has begun flying up to Todd and perching on his shoulder, as well as appearing outside the Westwards' bedroom window, looking for his human companion.
In a recent Facebook post that has since racked up more than 1,000 likes, Westward described Walter and Todd's adventures. "He's like a dog," she wrote. "[He] runs up to greet Todd in the morning and when he comes home … and then goes back up and sits on the porch and pretends to be our watch-bird."
Westward described the pair's bond as "quirky and unusual" but says it's been a lot of fun to watch.
The family's house borders a dense patch of woods that's home to black bears, foxes, deer, and more, she says. They have been careful not to feed, shelter, or approach Walter or any other wild creatures that wander into their backyard.
Westward adds that Todd and Walter's friendship didn't surprise her as her husband is "very comfortable" in nature and with animals.
Walter, however, hasn't taken the same liking to Westward and her daughters. Westward says he will sometimes approach her and the girls but will often jump or peck at their feet. In her Facebook post, Westward wrote that Walter runs "like a feathered velociraptor" and will often chase the family down their driveway and even into their cars.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Association, male ruffed grouse typically mate in the spring, with nesting usually occurring in late April. The "tame grouse phenomenon" —where grouse may appear friendly and approach humans — often occurs in spring, around peak mating season. Some theorize that the birds are acting "hyper-territorial" and are defending their homes.
As for Walter, "Maybe he has a family we don't know about," Westward says.