Greater Sage-Grouse - Centrocercus urophasianus
Greater Sage-Grouse is the largest of Montana's grouse. Both sexes have relatively long, pointed tails, feathered legs, and mottled gray-brown, buff, and black plumage. Males have a blackish-brown throat patch and an inconspicuous yellow eye comb. Both sexes have blackish bellies which contrast sharply with white under-wing coverts when the birds are in flight. Females appear to dip from side to side while flying. Adult males range from 26 to 30 inches in length and average 4 to 7 pounds in weight; adult females range from 19 to 23 inches in length and 2.5 to 3.5 pounds in weight.
A female Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) can possibly be confused with a female or young Greater Sage-Grouse. Female Ring-necked Pheasants, however, have a brown belly and bare legs, while female Greater Sage-Grouse have a black belly patch and feathered legs. They differ from Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) in having a black belly and in lacking white outer tail feathers.
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)
Sagebrush is the preferred habitat. They use 6 to 18 inch high sagebrush covered benches in June to July (average 213 acres); move to alfalfa fields (144 acres) or greasewood bottoms (91 acres) when forbs on the benches dry out; and move back to sagebrush (average 128 acres) in late August to early September (Peterson 1969).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at email@example.com
or (406) 444-3655.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. Special Publication No. 12. Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists. 278 p.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Open Water / Wetland and Riparian Systems
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Open Water / Wetland and Riparian Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Chicks eat mostly insects (60%); juveniles mostly forbs (75%) (dandelion and salsify); adults mostly big sagebrush and dandelion (79%) (Peterson 1969, Martin 1965).
Lek activity extends from March to May. Mating sites move from year to year; nests are located 0.2 to 6.5 miles from the lek (Harrison 1972).
In southwest Montana 34% of hens observed had broods, with the average size being 4.3 (Martin 1965). Courtship starts in early March and persists to nesting in May (Davis 1961). Egg records are probably similar to Wyoming: April 18 to July 27 (Johnsgard 1986).
On March 5, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Greater Sage-Grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that listing the species under the Act is precluded by the need to address other listing actions of a higher priority. Additional information on the species' management can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Species Account
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View WorldCat Record View Online Publication
- Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. dissertation. Oregon State University, Corvallis. 462 pp.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1986. Birds of the Rocky Mountains: with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, CO.
- Martin, N. S. 1965. Effects of chemical control of sagebrush on the occurrence of sage grouse in southwestern Montana. M.S. thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 38 pp.
- Peterson, J. G. 1969. The food habits and summer distribution of juvenile sage grouse in central Montana. M.S. thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 39 pp.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View WorldCat Record View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. 829 pp.
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- Decker Coal Company., 1978, 1978 Sage Grouse Report. In Decker Coal Company West Pit Permit. Vol. 3. 26.4.304(10-11), 305, 306, and 307. Updated Rules Rewrite, July 1, 1991.
- Decker Coal Company., 1992, Decker Coal Company East Pit Permit. Vol. 7. Section 9 - Wildlife. Section 10 - AVF and Prime Farmland. July 1992.
- Ecological Consulting Service (ECON), Helena, MT., 1972, Wildlife Investigations: 10 x 20 Mile Area, Colstrip, Montana. Project 9--01--A. Annual Report to Montana Power Company and Western Energy Company; December 1972 - December 1973. December 21, 1973.
- ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1975, Colstrip 10 x 20 Area wildlife and wildlife habitat annual monitoring report, 1975. Proj. 71-23-A. December 31, 1975.
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- ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1979, Annual wildllife report of the Colstrip Area for 1978. Proj. 195-85-A. April 6, 1979.
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- Econ, Inc., Helena, MT., 1978, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife and wildlife habitat monitoring study. Proj. 190-85-A. December 31, 1978.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Eng, R. 1969. For survival...sage grouse need sagebrush now. Montana State University, College of Agr., Bozeman. 5(3):2.
- Eng, R. L. 1952. Sage grouse population trends and breeding potential. Montana Fish and Game Department. P-R Quarterly Reports, 3(1):61-64, 3(2): 100-103, 3(3):44-49, 3(4):56-62,4(4):31-33,5(1):19-27,5(1):28-35.
- Eng, R. L. 1953. The sage grouse season. Montana Wildlife. Winter.
- Eng, R. L. 1954-55. Use of aerial coverage in sage grouse strutting ground counts. Proc. W. Assn. St. Game & Fish Comm. 34:231-233. 2 copies
- Eng, R. L. 1955. Method for obtaining sage grouse age and sex ratios from wings. J. Wildl. Manage. 19(2):267-272.
- Eng, R. L. 1956. Sage grouse production and movement study. Montana Fish and Game Department. P-R Job Compi. Rep. Proj. W-74-R-l, Job B-31.
- Eng, R. L. 1959-1964. Factors affecting, sage grouse production. Montana Fish and Game Department. Job Compl. Rep. Proj. W-91-R-l through 6, Job II-A.
- Eng, R. L. 1961. Sage grouse - spring strutting activity. Nat. 2(2): 15-20.
- Eng, R. L. 1963. Observations on the breeding biology of male sage grouse. J. Wildl. Mgmt. 27:841-846.
- Eng, R. L. 1963. Western states sage grouse questionnaire. Montana Fish and Game Department. VIII. 15 pp.
- Eng, R. L. 1971. Two hybrid sage grouse X sharp-tailed grouse from central Montana. Condor 73:491-493.
- Eng, R. L., and P. Schladweiler. 1972. Sage grouse winter movements and habitat use in central Montana. J. Wildl. Manage. 36:141-146.
- Eng, R. L., E. J. Pitcher, S. J. Scott, and R. J. Greene. 1979. Minimizing the effect of surface coal mining on a sage grouse population by a directed shift of breeding activities. Pp. 464-468 in The Mitagation Symposium. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mt. Forest and Range Exp. Sta., Fort Collins, Colorado.
- Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1985, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1984 field season. February 1985.
- Graham, Dean, and Craig Swick., 1977, A Field evaluation of the cyclone seeder for reducing Richardson ground squirrel populations causing damage in central Montana . August 1977.
- Hartzler, J. E. 1972. An analysis of sage grouse lek behavior. Ph.D dissertation. University of Montana, Missoula. 234 pp.
- Johnsgard, P. A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Kantrud, H.A. and R.L. Kologiski. 1982. Effects of soils and grazing on breeding birds of uncultivated upland grasslands of the northern Great Plains. U.S.D.I., Fish and Wildl. Serv., Wildl. Res. Rep. 15. 33 pp.
- Klott, J. H., and F. G. Lindzey. 1990. Brood habitats of sympatric sage grouse and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in Wyoming. J. Wildl. Manage. 54:84-88.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, 6th Edition. Montana Audubon: Helena, MT, 144 pp.
- Martin, N. S. 1970. Sagebrush control related to habitat and sage grouse occurrence. J. Wildl. Mgmt. 34:313-320.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Montana Dept. of State Lands, 1978, Preliminary environmental review for the proposed granting of an underground mining permit to Beartooth Coal Company, Incorporated, for the reopening of an underground coal mine in the area of Bearcreek, Carbon County, Montana. July 10, 1978.
- Montana Sage Grouse Work Group, 2000???, Management plan and covservation strategies for sage grouse in Montana
- Montana State Dept. of Health and Env. Sciences., 1975, Proceedings: Seminar, Advancements in Pesticides, Helena, MT, Sept. 16-18, 1975.
- Munshower, Frank F., 1974, Animal tissue collections and bone fluoride concentrations at Colstrip, MT. 1973. Collecting Report, 1973. January 1974.
- Peterson, J. G. 1970. The food habits and summer distribution of juvenile sage grouse in central Montana. J. Wildl. Manage. 34:147-155.
- Powder River Eagle Studies, Inc., Gillette, WY., 1999, Spring Creek Mine 1998 Wildlife Monitoring. March 1999.
- Pyrah, D. 1969. A review of habitat selection and food habits studies of sage grouse in Montana. Presented at 6th Bi. Sage Grouse Workshop, Rock Springs, WY.
- Pyrah, D. 1971. Sage grouse habitat research in central Montana. Proc. Western Assoc. of Game and Fish Comm., Aspen, Colorado. 51:293-300.
- Pyrah, D., and R. Wallestad. 1974. Movement and nesting of sage grouse hens in Central Montana. J. Wildl. Manage. 38:630-633.
- Schladweiler, P. 1969. Breeding season movements and habitat use by male sage grouse. Western Assoc. State Game and Fish Comm., Jackson Hole, Wyo. 49:317-322.
- Schladweiler, Philip, and John P. Weigand., 1983, Relationships of endrin and other chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds to wildlife in Montana, 1981-1982. September 1983.
- Schneegast E. R. 1967. Sage grouse and sagebrush control. Trans. No. Am. Wildl. Conf. 32:270-274.
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- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
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- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service., 1984, Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Montana: Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
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- Wallestad, R. and P. Schladweiler. 1974. Breeding season movements and habitat selection of male sage grouse. Jour. Wildl. Mgmt. 38(4):634-637.
- Wallestad, R. O. 1970. Summer movements and habitat use by sage grouse broods in central Montana. M.S. thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 51 pp.
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- Wallestad, R., and D. Pyrah. 1974. Movements and nesting of sage grouse hens in central Montana. J. Wildl. Manage. 38:630-633.
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- Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT. Unpub., 1983, Western Energy Company's Application for Amendment to Surface Mining Permit NO. 8003, Area B: sections 7, 8, 17,18 T1N R41E, sections 12, 13 T1N R40E, Mining Expansion. March 1983.
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