WatchList Species Account for Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Great Sage Grouse
Photo: USFWS

Named for its preference for habitats dominated by big sagebrush, the Greater Sage-Grouse was once found in 16 states and three Canadian provinces in the West; it has now been extirpated from five states and one province, and in reduced in range in the rest.


This very large grouse with its dramatic breeding displays is resident in some localities, but migrates seasonally between wintering and nesting areas in others. The bird’s digestive system is uniquely adapted for eating sagebrush, which is essential for its survival and dominates its diet from autumn through early spring, forming an important food item during summer as well. The grouse seek out specific species of sagebrush for their higher nutritive value or lower toxins. Insects are important for juveniles, and also form part of the adult’s summertime diet.


The bird’s total population wais estimated at 142,000 in 1998 (this would include the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, since described as a separate species). In all the states and provinces where it is still found, the bird's range has been reduced and numbers have declined.


Though the sage-grouse is still hunted, most researchers believe that current hunting pressure does not materially affect the population size, but there have been no studies on hunting to substantiate this belief. Hunting of the species is not allowed several states and provinces.


There has been management to maintain and improve sage-grouse habitat,. including management of grazing, controlled burns, restoration of native habitat, and setting up preserves. Translocation of birds may be needed to expand its distribution and augment its numbers, especially where no dispersal corridors exist between occupied and suitable but unoccupied habitats.