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Greater Sage-Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus


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Greater Sage-Grouse, male
credit: Gary Kramer

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Family: Phasianidae, Pheasants and Grouse view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has finely marked, dark brown upperparts, white on breast and side of neck, and black belly; latter is striking in flight, as are white underwings. Note white-bordered black throat and yellow wattles above eye, expanded during display. ADULT FEMALE Similar to male, but paler overall, with less distinct head markings and shorter tail. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: Male, 26-30" (66-76 cm); female, 22-23" (56-58 cm)

Habitat Has declined markedly over the last 200 years due to habitat destruction and degradation (for agriculture), exacerbated by hunting. Favors sagebrush habitats and still very locally common; total population exceeds 100,000.

Observation Tips Easiest to find, and most rewarding to observe, in spring (mainly Mar-May) when displaying.

Range California, Western Canada, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Plains, Northwest

Voice Male produces popping sounds during display, audible over a considerable distance.

Similar Species Gunnison Sage-Grouse Centrocercus minimus is similar to Greater, but appreciably smaller (L 22 in (male); 18 in (female)). Restricted to small areas in eastern Utah and western Colorado and population numbers just a few thousand. Similar habitat requirements and appearance to Greater; upper side of male's tail feathers are white-barred.

Discussion Large and impressive grouse. Males are particularly stunning when displaying. Ritual involves a strutting display with spiky tail feathers raised and fanned, head feathers held erect, and ruff of white neck feathers puffed up. Accompanied by wing swishing sounds and two loud pops caused by yellow air sacs on the neck being inflated and deflated (normally not visible). At other times, adopts a horizontal posture, emphasized by proportionately long tail. Typically gregarious throughout the year. Mostly sedentary although some food-related dispersal may occur during harsh winter weather. Feeds primarily on sagebrush, but also takes invertebrates in summer.