Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Priority Bird

Greater Sage-Grouse

Centrocercus urophasianus

Well-named, this very large grouse is found nowhere except in sagebrush country of the west. It nests on the ground among the sage, and the leaves of this plant are its staple diet in winter. The Sage Grouse is best known for the spectacular courtship displays of the males: Large numbers (up to 70 or more) will gather in spring on traditional dancing grounds and strut with their chests puffed out and spiky tails spread, hoping to attract females.
Conservation status Has disappeared from much of former range. Loss of habitat (through clearing for farmland and overgrazing) is one major cause. Threatened by energy development and the effects of invasive plants in much of its remaining range.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Sagebrush plains; also foothills and mountain slopes where sagebrush grows. Found on open plains, high valleys, rocky mesas, mountainsides, but only in vicinity of sagebrush. Prime nesting habitat includes some lower wet areas where young can forage for insects. In very dry country, may fly several miles to a source of water in morning and evening.
Well-named, this very large grouse is found nowhere except in sagebrush country of the west. It nests on the ground among the sage, and the leaves of this plant are its staple diet in winter. The Sage Grouse is best known for the spectacular courtship displays of the males: Large numbers (up to 70 or more) will gather in spring on traditional dancing grounds and strut with their chests puffed out and spiky tails spread, hoping to attract females.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male, displaying
  • adult males
Feeding Behavior

Forages by walking on ground, browsing leaves and other plant parts, or picking up items from ground.


Eggs

Usually 7-9, sometimes 6-13. Olive-buff, evenly dotted with brown. Incubation is by female only, 25-27 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but do not reach adult size until much later.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but do not reach adult size until much later.

Diet

Mostly sage leaves and buds, also insects. Diet in fall and winter may be almost entirely the leaves and fresh shoots of sagebrush. At other seasons, also eats leaves, flowers, and buds of a wide variety of plants; also some insects in summer (young eat many insects at first). Unlike most grouse, digestive system is not adapted for digesting hard seeds.


Nesting

Traditional display grounds may be used for years. In courtship display, male puffs out white chest, inflates two yellow air sacs, raises and spreads tail, droops wings; head is thrown back on shoulders as air sacs are deflated with loud popping sound. Females visit display ground to mate with one of the males. Oldest and most experienced males compete for positions at center of display ground, and these males are usually chosen by females. Nest site is on ground, under sagebrush or clump of grass. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression, sparsely lined with plant material.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mainly a permanent resident, but may perform some local movements, abandoning some high-elevation valleys in winter.

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Migration

Mainly a permanent resident, but may perform some local movements, abandoning some high-elevation valleys in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
When flushed, a chicken-like cackling call. Males make bubbling sound during courtship.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Pheasants and Grouse Upland Ground Birds

Greater Sage-Grouse

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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The Fight for the Greater Sage-Grouse

The Fight for the Greater Sage-Grouse

One Bird, 11 States, 165 Million Acres—How Audubon Helped Protect the Sagebrush’s Most Iconic Resident.

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Sagebrush Ecosystem

Sagebrush Ecosystem

Balancing prairie-bird protection with our nation’s need for energy

Read more

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