The Basics about Sage-Grouse

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest of all grouse species in North America.  Adult males can reach weights exceeding 7 pounds and wing spans of 2½ feet.  Females (hens) are about half that size.  Sage-grouse are relatively long-lived and can often live 5 or more years after reaching adulthood.   Sage-grouse are dependent on sagebrush communities for food and cover.   They are referred to as a landscape species and migrate to different areas throughout the year.   Sage-grouse typically need large, intact sagebrush landscapes to maintain sustainable populations.  Spring is the mating season for sage-grouse as birds gather in an open area called a lek. Most leks are traditional sites used year after year.  Early in the morning, several males try to attract females by performing an elaborate strutting display and by making “popping/bubbling” sounds with their inflatable air sacs.  Hens will then choose which male they prefer.  After breeding, hens build a nest usually within a few miles of a lek.  A typical nest would contain six to eight eggs.  After the chicks are hatched, they are dependent on insects and forbs to provide a nutritious diet.  When the chicks are a few weeks old, the hen will move them to better habitat for late summer.  As winter approaches, sage-grouse move to areas where sagebrush grows above the snow line to provide shelter and food.