Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Locally common.
HABITAT: Inhabits open, rocky, sagebrush-grassland habitats from below sea level to as high as 12,000 feet, on dry mountain slopes and canyons. Also inhabits areas with Mormon tea, bitterbrush, currant, and rabbitbrush; in the southern portion of its range it may be found in saltbush-grassland habitat, but generally avoids pinyon-juniper climax habitat. During hot weather, tends to concentrate near water provided by springs, seeps, and small perennial and intermittent streams, dispersing when surrounding vegetation greens up after rains. Moves to lower elevations in heavy snows. Roosts on the ground beneath sagebrush, under junipers, in the shelter of rock outcrops, and in open rocky places, but not in dense cover.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Water source during hot weather in summer and early fall.
NEST: Nests in a depression scratched in the ground, constructed under shrubs or well concealed by rocks and brush in rocky areas. May occasionally have a dump nest.
FOOD: During summer and fall, feeds primarily on seeds of cheatgrass, Russian thistle, rough fiddleneck, and redstem filaree; also takes seeds of Indian ricegrass, curly dock, and mustard. Will also eat grass blades, stems and buds of a variety of plants, wild onion seeds, grasshoppers, and caterpillars.
REFERENCES: Christensen 1970, Johnsgard 1975a, Molini 1976.