Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are a unique and beautiful bird. Males are more colorful than females with black throat and bib and a white riff around their neck--a white feathered boa. Males also have yellow air sacs that inflate and become highly visible when they are strutting during their courtship dance to attract females. Females are more muted, with mottled brown , black and white plumage, to help them stay hidden in the sagebrush.
Sage-grouse go by several common names including prairie chicken, sage cock, heath hen, sage chicken and sage hen. Sage-grouse are large, round birds--roughly the size of a chicken, hence many of their common names. They grow up to two feet in height and males typically weigh between 4-6 lbs and hens between 2-3 lbs.
They are sagebrush obligates, which mean they need sagebrush to survive and cannot live in areas without sagebrush. They make their nests under sagebrush and they depend on it for roosting, cover and food. They are ground dwelling birds and even though they mainly eat sagebrush they also eat other soft plants, and insects.
Sage-grouse have very unique and interesting breeding displays. A large number of males will congregate in a fairly small area, called a lek, to strut for females attention. During their displays, male grouse fan out their tails and blow up their air sacs which they then use to make popping noises. Lek sites have to be in clear areas with low sagebrush surrounded by larger sagebrush cover. Females will usually nest in the deeper sagebrush near the Lek site.
The greater sage-grouse range includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming, you can even find them in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. They can be found in elevations between 4,000 and 9,000 feet.
Greater sage-grouse are a species of concern since their historic range has been decreased. It's distribution and density has greatly decreased due to loss of quality habitat. Federal and state agencies along with property owners and other partners are working together to to try and protect greater sage-grouse habitat.
Sources and links for more information:
The Birds of North America Online
U.S.F.W.S. Greater Sage-Grouse
NRCS Profile of the Greater Sage-Grouse
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