A close relative of the Ruffed Grouse/partridge.

Visual Description: Both males and females are a mixture of gray and brown with black bellies. The males can weigh 5-7lbs and are 26-30 inches long with a black throat or bib, white breast, and neck plumes that flank the breast. The females can weigh up to 5lbs and are 22-23 inches long and are gray and brown all over, except for their black bellies, and have a pale chin.

Sage Grouse Female
Female Sage Grouse

Natural History: Lewis and Clark first described sage grouse as the “cock of the plains.” Sage grouse, the largest species of grouse in North America, typically live in open areas, especially sagebrush plains where different species of sagebrush, but especially Artemisia tridentata, cover
15-50% of the ground. These habitats are best found in the northwestern states of the USA and the southwestern provinces of Canada. A.C. Bent describes their range as wherever sagebrush is the primary cover until greasewood takes over in the more southern deserts.

Sage grouse primarily eat different species of sagebrush in the fall and winter, though they also supplement with insects, seeds, and some other plant species in spring and summer. Their stomachs do not have a tough gizzard like other grouse that enable them to eat tough foods, so sage grouse must rely on eating more tender leaves and shoots.

Breeding– Males come together in a lek, a traditional displaying ground, where they fan their tails and tilt forward and snap upwards to inflate a pair of air sacs on their breast to make a bubbling sound to display to females. Females typically lay 6-9 eggs in a well-camouflaged grass-lined depression on the ground, though up to 15 eggs have been found in one nest. The incubation period lasts 22 days and the females raise the chicks alone.

Breeding Male Sage Grouse Illustration
Breeding Male Sage Grouse (not displaying)