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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sage Grouse -- Centrocercus urophasianus

RANGE: Resident locally from central Washington, southern Idaho, Montana, southeastern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan and North Dakota, and western South Dakota south to eastern California, south-central Nevada, southern Utah, Colorado and northern New Mexico. Generally, associated with big sagebrush.

STATUS: Common (formerly widespread); range has been reduced, and its population is lower than it was 30 years ago.

HABITAT: Inhabits sagebrush-dominated rangelands, from the plains to the mountains, preferably where sagebrush provides 15 to 50 percent of the ground cover. Depends entirely upon forms of sagebrush, primarily big sagebrush, for food from October through May and for cover throughout the year. In spring, males prefer relatively open, rather than dense, sagebrush cover for strutting grounds. May move up to 50 miles or more throughout the year; occupies areas with exposed sagebrush during winter.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Sagebrush-dominated rangelands.

NEST: Usually nests beneath sagebrush in a shallow depression on the ground. Usually locates nest in drier sites close to strutting grounds where shrub cover is less than 50 percent and vegetation is 10 to 20 inches tall. Moves young broods to moist areas, where there is a plentiful supply of insects and green plant material.

FOOD: In winter, feeds entirely on sagebrush leaves. Prefers Wyoming big sagebrush to mountain big sagebrush, thus maximizing proteins and minimizing monoterpenes. Also feeds (to a small extent) on alkali sagebrush and, in Idaho on black sagebrush. In other seasons, also feeds on forbs and some insects.

REFERENCES: Braun in Farrand 1983a, Dalke et al. 1963, Johnsgard 1973, 1983a, Patterson 1952, Remington 1983, Tate and Tate 1982.

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