Scientific Name: Centrocercus urophasianus
As its name suggests, the greater sage-grouse inhabits sagebrush plains, as well as foothills and mountain valleys. These ground-dwelling birds live where sagebrush is prevalent, in 11 western states and parts of Canada.
Refuges where sage-grouse can be found:
- Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
- Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
- Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
The number of sage-grouse has declined significantly in the past century as their sagebrush habitat has been fragmented and destroyed. If this trend continues, many local groups may disappear in the next several decades, leaving the remaining fragmented population vulnerable to extinction.
The conservation status of the sage-grouse is mired in controversy. Some conservationists believe the bird should be listed as a threatened or endangered species to keep it from declining further. Others oppose such an action, concerned that it would lead to restrictions on livestock grazing that would harm farms and ranches.
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the greater sage-grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that such action should wait until the agency can help other imperiled species first. Therefore the greater sage-grouse is currently on the list of species that are candidates for Endangered Species Act protection.
The sage-grouse is sometimes referred to as a sage chicken, sage cock or sage hen because of its resemblance to the domestic chicken. Adults can grow to be 30 inches long and two feet tall. Females are brown, black and white, which helps camouflage them from predators. Males are more colorful, with feathers around their neck and large yellow air sacks on their breast that inflate during mating displays.
These birds are completely dependent on intact sagebrush habitat. Their diet consists mostly of sagebrush plants, along with a few insects and other plants. They nest on the ground, relying on sagebrush for cover. Their coloration is designed to blend in with sagebrush plants and protect them from predators such as coyotes, bobcats and falcons.
What NWRA is doing:
Beyond the Boundaries: Sagebrush Steppe
Help us protect the Sheldon and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuges, where the pygmy rabbit and many other species live. The Sheldon and Hart Mountain refuges are part of our Beyond the Boundaries program. These refuges were set aside in the 1930s to protect the rugged landscape and unique wildlife of the high desert. They shelter not only pygmy rabbits, but pronghorn, mule deer, sage-grouse, and redband trout. NWRA is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to protect this important landscape, and to balance the needs of local ranchers with the needs of wildlife. Learn more.