Greater Sage-Grouse

The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is one of those iconic species of the American west. The largest of the sage grouse species, these birds inhabit the foothills and plains in western states wherever sagebrush can be found. Dusky in color, the Greater Sage-Grouse blends in well with its surroundings and is reliant on sagebrush for food, shelter, and nesting.

Come springtime, males, with their unique plumage, strut around a lek — a common area where sage grouse congregate in hopes of attracting a potential mate– inflating the yellow air sacs located on their chest in hopes of luring in the ladies. This elaborate mating ritual is quite the spectacle! In a lek, it’s essentially the luck of the draw and, at the end of the day, it is the females that ultimately decide who they will mate with.

After the mating ritual has concluded, everyone goes their own way! The females, without any help from the males, handle all of the responsibilities of raising their offspring, including building the nest and incubating the 7-9 eggs. While sage grouse can technically fly, they aren’t the best at covering great distances. As such, nests are built on the ground, under cover of sagebrush or dense grasses or shrubs.

In the wild, grouse typically live between 1-6 years and are threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. The Greater Sage-Grouse is considered to be an indicator species, reflecting the decline of sagebrush on the landscape.

Denise Peterson

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