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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sharp-tailed Grouse -- Tympanuchus phasianellus


RANGE: Resident, at least locally, from central Alaska and central Yukon to northern Ontario and west-central Quebec, south to eastern Oregon, central Utah, central Colorado, central Nebraska, central Minnesota, central Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and southern Ontario.

STATUS: Locally common; population is down in the northern Great Plains.

HABITAT: Inhabits mid to tall grasslands interspersed with scattered woodlands, arid sagebrush, brushy hills, oak savannah, and edges of riparian woodland. Prefers habitats with several small openings, 1 to 10 acres in size, close together or a single large opening of 50 to 100 acres. In late summer and early autumn found mainly in open cover, grassy openings, or in low, scattered brush. Later, moves to thickets and open woods; in winter, to edges of brush, open woods, or swamps. Prefers tops of low to medium hills or ridges with short, sparse vegetation for courtship sites. Roosts in trees or shrubs in brushy cover.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Grasslands interspersed with shrubs or trees and grainfields.

NEST: Nests on the ground, preferably among tall, rank grasses, but also in brushy or woody areas if grassland quality is poor. May nest in fields of winter wheat, or in residual cover of warm season grasses on north-facing slopes.

FOOD: Eats wide variety of foods, primarily the leaves, seeds, or buds of plants, and some insects, but also including fruits, cultivated grains, buds and catkins of birch and aspen, and grasshoppers.

REFERENCES: Hamerstrom 1963, Hamerstrom and Hamerstrom 1951, Johnsgard 1973, 1983a, Rogers 1969, Sisson 1976, Tate and Tate 1982.


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