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Greater Sage-Grouse
Centrocercus urophasianus
– Family
Authors: Schroeder, M. A., J. R. Young, and C. E. Braun

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Adult male Greater Sage-Grouse, courtship display; Mono Co., CA; April
Adult female Greater Sage-Grouse; Mono Co., CA; April
Figure 1. Current and historical distribution of the Sage Grouse.

Editor's Note 01/06: Based on differences in size, behavior, genetics and plumage, Gunnison Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus minimus) has been recognized as a species distinct from the Greater Sage-Grouse by the 42nd supplement to the AOU Checklist. See Systematics of this current account. Future revisions of this account will reflect this change.

The Sage Grouse is North America’s largest grouse, a characteristic feature of habitats dominated by big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in western North America. The first written accounts of this species were based on observations by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805, when the species was widespread in the West; its distribution and population densities have been greatly reduced because of loss of habitat to cultivation, burning, and overgrazing. Although the taxonomy of the Sage Grouse is still debated, both currently recognized subspecies and most populations face problems that may impact their long-term survival, problems that continue despite a century of conservation concern and management efforts.

The dramatic physiological and behavioral nature of the Sage Grouse has been an inspiration to a wide cross section of people, including Native Americans, naturalists, behavioral ecologists, photographers, and hunters. This species is renowned for its spectacular breeding displays, during which large numbers of males congregate on relatively small lek sites to perform a Strutting Display and to breed with females. Although research on the breeding behavior of the Sage Grouse continues (Young et al. 1994; Gibson 1996a, 1996b), the effects of movement, habitat selection, productivity, and survival on the conservation biology of this species are the focus of most current research (Pyle and Crawford 1996, Fischer et al. 1997, Reese and Connelly 1997, Schroeder 1997, Braun 1998, Sveum et al. 1998b).