Photo: Zak Pohlen/Flickr Creative Commons

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Tympanuchus phasianellus

The Sharp-tailed Grouse is typical of regions that have open grassland mixed with groves of trees or shrubs. Closely related to the prairie-chickens, it is found mostly farther north. On winter nights it may roost by burrowing into snowdrifts, where the snow helps insulate it from the cold.
Conservation status Has disappeared from some parts of former range (especially southern areas), and may still be declining. Loss of habitat is main cause.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Prairie, brushy groves, forest edges, open burns in coniferous forest. Prime habitat includes a mixture of open prairie with groves of deciduous trees or shrubs, such as aspen, birch, willow. Shifts habitat with season, occupying more open grasslands in summer, groves of trees and shrubs in winter.
The Sharp-tailed Grouse is typical of regions that have open grassland mixed with groves of trees or shrubs. Closely related to the prairie-chickens, it is found mostly farther north. On winter nights it may roost by burrowing into snowdrifts, where the snow helps insulate it from the cold.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, displaying
  • adult female
  • adult
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground in summer, mostly in trees and shrubs in winter.


Eggs

5-17, typically about 12. Olive-buff to pale brown, usually speckled with various browns. Incubation is by female only, about 23-24 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young and leads them to feeding areas, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but are not full-grown for several more weeks.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young and leads them to feeding areas, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but are not full-grown for several more weeks.

Diet

Mostly seeds, buds, leaves. Mostly vegetarian for most of year. In winter, when food on ground is mostly buried by snow, feeds heavily on buds of trees and shrubs. In spring, eats leaves, green shoots, large numbers of flowers. Varied diet in fall, with seeds, berries, leaves, waste grains. Insects eaten mainly in summer (especially by young birds), including many grasshoppers.


Nesting

In early mornings in spring, males gather on display ground. Male points tail up, spreads wings, holds head low, stamps feet rapidly while moving forward or in circles. Male inflates neck sacs, then deflates them with hollow cooing sound; also rattles tail feathers. Female visits display grounds, mates with one of the males. Nest site is on ground, under shrub or thick clump of grass. Nest (built by female) is a shallow depression with a sparse lining of grass, leaves, ferns.

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

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

Migration

No major migration, but birds may move several miles with the season to reach optimum habitat for summer or winter.

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Migration

No major migration, but birds may move several miles with the season to reach optimum habitat for summer or winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
During courtship, a low single or double cooing note.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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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

Sharp-tailed 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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