Greater Sage-Grouse - Centrocercus urophasianus
The Greater Sage-Grouse is North America's largest grouse.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
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:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
The Greater Sage-Grouse makes seasonal movements that can vary greatly depending upon a number of factors including gender, behavior, seasonal habitat quality, and weather (Connelly et al. 1988).
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 (common or occasional) 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 2012, 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 observation 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 listed as associated with 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 listed as 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.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific 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 assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
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. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
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- 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.
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- 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
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Adults eat mainly sagebrush during late autumn, winter, and early spring. Sagebrush and forbs dominate diet in summer, although some insects are also eaten. Typically forages on the ground. Juveniles eat insects such as grasshoppers and ants during the first three weeks of life, but forbs increase with importance with age (Schroeder et al. 1999).
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 1978).
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 September 22 2015, after review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Greater Sage-Grouse did not warrant listing protections under the Endangered Species Act at the time because the primary threats to populations had been ameliorated by conservation efforts implemented by Federal, State, and private land owners. Additional information on the species' management can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Species Account
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
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- Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland.
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- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- 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.
- Schroeder, M.A., J.R. Young, and C.E. Braun. 1999. Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Species Account Number 425. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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- Decker Coal Company., 1992, Decker Coal Company East Pit Permit. Vol. 7. Section 9 - Wildlife. Section 10 - AVF and Prime Farmland. July 1992.
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- 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.
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- Eng, R. L. 1955. A method for obtaining Sage Grouse age and sex ratios from wings. J. Wildl. Manage. 19(2):267-272.
- 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. 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. 1956. Sage Grouse production and movement study. Montana Fish and Game Department Job Completion Report, Project W-74-R-1, Helena.
- Eng, R. L. 1963. Observations on the breeding biology of male Sage Grouse. Journal of Wildlife Management 27:841-846.
- Eng, R. L., and P. Schladweiler. 1972. Sage Grouse winter movements and habitat use in central Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 36:141-146.
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- 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.
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- Martin, N. S. 1970. Sagebrush control related to habitat and Sage Grouse occurrence. Journal of Wildlife Management 34:313-320.
- Matthews, W.L. 1980a. Wibaux-Beach comparison study: Sydney, Glendive and Plevna Study Areas. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 50 p.
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- 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 Greater Sage-Grouse Working Group. 2000. Management plan and covservation strategies for Greater 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.
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