The largest of the North American Grouse, the Greater Sage Grouse and the very similar
Grouse were just recently split into two separate species, when it was
discovered that Gunnison Sage Grouse (not found in South Dakota) were
genetically distinct and had different breeding displays and calls.
Greater Sage Grouse have spectacular spring mating displays on their leks
(traditional breeding grounds), with male birds struting and rapidly
inflating and deflating the large air sacs in their breast (see photo to the
right). Sage Grouse
are heavily dependent on sagebrush habitat, and quickly disappear from areas
where this habitat is converted to agricultural fields or grasslands for
grazing. A female is depicted in the photo on the right.
Habitat: Only found in habitats with sagebrush
in the vicinity, including open plains, mountain valleys, mountainsides, and
Diet: Relies very heavily on leaves and
fresh shoots of sagebrush, especially during the fall and winter. Will eat
other leaves, flowers, buds, and fresh shoots in other seasons, and also
consumes some insects during summer months.
Nesting: May and June. The nest is a shallow
scrape in the ground, lined with sparse bits of vegetation. It is usually
placed under a sagebrush plant, or at the base of other vegetation. The
female usually lays between 7 and 9 eggs, and she alone incubates them.
After the eggs hatch, the young quickly leave the nest. They are tended to
by the female, but find their own food.
Song: Courting males make loud popping sounds
from inflated air sacs. When flushed, makes a cuk-cuk-cuk call.
Migration: Generally a permanent resident throughout
its range, although birds at higher elevations will move to lower elevations in
Gunnison Sage Grouse, not found in
Conservation Status: Has disappeared from much of its former
range. Destruction of sagebrush habitat in much of the west has taken
a heavy toll on this species and others that depend on these unique
habitats. Declines in population and range are continuing.
The IUCN currently
lists the Greater Sage Grouse as "Near Threatened".
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Greater Sage Grouse"
eNature.com: Greater Sage Grouse
Photo Information: July 23rd, 2012 - Harding County,
South Dakota - Terry Sohl