Photo: Christopher Ciccone/Audubon Photography Awards

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.
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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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Greater Sage-Grouse

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Greater Sage-Grouse

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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

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