Gunnison Sage-Grouse and the Greater
Sage-Grouse were once considered a single Sage-Grouse species.
However, range differences, size differences, and differences in the males'
courting displays led to genetic testing which revealed the two should be
split into two distinct species. Official designation of the Gunnison
Sage-Grouse as a distinct species occurred in the year 2000.
Gunnison Sage-Grouse are only about 2/3rds the size of the Greater Sage
Grouse. They have differences in plumage as well, with the
Gunnison Sage Grouse generally having a paler tail, as well as longer
and thicker "filoplumes" on displaying males. Displays of the
males are decidedly unique as well. The ranges of the two species
evidently have very little overlap, and genetic testing shows little if
any cross-breeding between the two species.
Habitat: The preferred habitat of the Gunnison
Sage-Grouse are large unbroken expanses of sagebrush.
Diet: Feeds on both plant and animal matter.
In the winter, they depend heavily on the buds and leaves of sagebrush.
Summer diet also consists of significant numbers of insects, especially
for the young-of-year birds. Other food items include fruit and
berries, flowers, and seeds.
Behavior: Foraging is typically done in the
early morning or late evening, with birds walking along the ground and
consuming plant material or chasing insects.
Nesting: Breeding activity occurs at
traditional Lek sites, with males performing elaborate displays to
attract females. Only 1 or 2 dominant males typically breed with
the females. After breeding, the females move to nearby nesting
grounds, building a nest under the base of sagebrush plants. The
nest is a simple depression in the soil, lined with plant material and
down. The female alone incubates the eggs, and raises the young.
Song: The display of a male Gunnison
Sage-Grouse consists of 9 low-pitched whooping sounds with three
swishing wing movement sounds in the middle.
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout its range. Some birds in the higher elevation portions
of their range may move to lower elevations for the winter.
Conservation Status: Total global populations of
the species is only between 3,000 and 5,000 birds. They have a
very small home range and a habitat which is becoming increasingly
IUCN currently lists the
Gunnison Sage-Grouse as "endangered".