Greater Sage-grouse

sage grouse
Sage Grouse (male)

Centrocercus urophasianus

Description

  • North America’s largest grouse
  • ground-feeding, upland bird the size of a chicken
  • males have large tailfeathers and expandable air sacs on their chest, used for display during the breeding season.
  • females are a more dull, dappled brown and white color and do not have showy features.

Habitat

Greater sage-grouse historically inhabited most of the sagebrush steppe in the western United States. Their numbers have declined along with this habitat. It is believed that 56% of the greater sage-grouse historical range has been lost.

Greater sage-grouse depend on large areas of sagebrush, along with a variety of native grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Sage-grouse need diverse habitat for different seasons. Open areas are needed during the breeding season, while more dense cover is needed for nesting, raising young, and for winter habitat.

Behavior

The greater sage-grouse is known for exciting and brilliant display behaviors by males during the breeding season. This behavior occurs from early March to mid-May, when multiple males gather in open areas called leks. During this time, males use their tail feathers and expandable air sacs under their throats to compete with other males for optimum position on the lek and the attention of females.

Along with depending on sagebrush for cover, it also comprises of much of their diet. In winter, sagebrush leaves become 99% of the bird's diet, and some individuals migrate to different habitat for the season. Greater sage-grouse are the only grouse in North America that have been known to migrate.

Conservation

To help conserve greater sage-grouse, active management has been implemented in parts of Idaho to improve habitat while also helping other species that depend on sagebrush. Wildfire, development, agricultural, and invasive species have been identified as some of the greatest threats to sagebrush steppe habitat. All of these threats are interrelated. For instance, wildfires and development allow invasive species like cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) to exploit an opening and displace natives and increase wildfire frequency and intensity.

At Craters of the Moon, the National Park Service (NPS) monitors greater sage-grouse, as well as its habitat, to aid in conservation efforts. The NPS monitors these magnificent birds and their habitat by conducting annual lek counts of male sage-grouse. The NPS also helps to preserve sagebrush steppe habitat by monitoring it and controlling invasive exotic plant species which threaten to degrade this habitat.

Birding at Craters? Explore the bird checklist to find out which species to look for!

Last updated: July 28, 2020

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
P.O. Box 29

Arco , ID 83213

Phone:

208 527-1300

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