The Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

This strange and flamboyant creature is the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), and the one pictured above is a male in full display – likely hoping his performance will warrant his selection by a female for breeding. Sage-grouses are members of the Phasianidae family group of birds, to which heavy, ground-living birds like turkeys, chickens, pheasants, partridges, and quails, belong. They are native to the sagebrush steppe habitats that are widespread in the western parts of the continent, which are characterized by an arid, cold climate, minimal rainfall, and mostly flat or gently rolling terrain. These habitats are fragile and are threatened by climate change (and invasive species), overgrazing, and suppression of natural fire cycles.

Because their habitat is threatened, the greater sage-grouse is also threatened. Unlike mule deer, elk, and pronghorn, the greater sage-grouse exclusively relies on these sagebrush habitats and is sensitive to disturbance. Their populations have been declining probably since the European settlement of the West, and according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations have been declining at an average annual rate of 2.3% since the 1960s.

✔️ “Greater Sage-Grouse Identification, All about Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.” Allaboutbirds.org, 2016, www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Greater_Sage-Grouse/id. ✔️ “Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus Urophasianus) | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.” FWS.gov, www.fws.gov/species/greater-sage-grouse-centrocercus-urophasianus. ✔️ “Sagebrush Steppe.” National Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Threats-to-Wildlife/Climate-Change/Habitats/Sagebrush-Steppe.