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    Greater Sage Grouse

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    Overview

    The Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), also known as cock of the plains, logcock, prairie cock, heath grouse, and pheasant, is the largest of game birds except for the wild turkey. This grouse occurs throughout the Shrub-steppe habitat in 11 western American states and 2 Canadian provinces.

    Unlike Ruffed Grouse, it prefers open areas in dry foothills and plains where sagebrush is plentiful as a source of food and cover. The buds and leaves of sagebrush form the main parts of its diet and provide nesting material and roosting sites.

    Appearance

    During their spring courtship display, males become much more conspicuous. They fan their tails wide, ruffle up the showy white frill around their neck and breast and inflate air sacs on their breast. Females, known as sage-hens, are smaller and less striking. Their completely mottled, brownish plumage helps conceal them when sitting on the nest.

    Distribution & Habitat

    Sagebrush once covered the plains of the western United States and southern Canada, but millions of acres have since been cleared for farmland and development. As the sagebrush has steadily disappeared, so has the Greater Sage Grouse. It currently occupies approximately 56% of its historic range.

    The Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis subsp. occidentalis) range expansion into the Sagebrush steppe ecosystems has affected both native wildlife and economic livelihoods across western North America. The conversion of Sagebrush steppe to juniper woodland negatively affects greater sage-grouse by reducing Sagebrush cover and the associated plants and insects that comprise the birds’ diet.

    Conservative Status

    The species is endangered in Canada (COSEWIC 2008). The Greater Sage Grouse is not listed in the U.S. as federally threatened or endangered, although it was found to be warranted (United States Fish and Wildlife Service 2010).3 The potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the U.S. Endangered Species Act has spurred a decade of juniper removal efforts.4

    Video Credits: BBC
    Image Credits: Pacific Southwest Region, WikiMedia

    References:

    1. L. DeVere Burton – Fish & Wildlife: Principles of Zoology And Ecology
    2. Jason A. Mobley – Birds Of The World
    3. Matthew R Dzialak et al. – Incorporating Within- And Between-patch Resource Selection In Identification Of Critical Habitat For Brood-rearing Greater Sage-grouse
    4. Shahla Farzan et al. – Western Juniper Management: Assessing Strategies For Improving Greater Sage-grouse Habitat And Rangeland Productivity

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