About Gunnison sage-grouse

Male Gunnison sage-grouse by Helen Richardson, The Denver Post.

Portrait of a grouse

Male Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) are impressive birds, especially in the spring. The 3.5 to 5-pound males gather on courtship grounds called leks. That's when these mottled brown and white, chicken-like birds transform themselves. To impress the 2.4 to 3.1-pound females, the boys spread out their white-barred pointy tail feathers. They also inflate two yellow air sacs on their white chest and make a watery popping sound. To top it off, they flip up the long feathers on the back of their neck (called filoplumes). The males also sport dashing black bellies and yellow-green eye combs. Females are camouflaged, so predators don't spy them on their ground nests. To learn more about grouse, click here.

Home sweet home

As the name implies, these birds live in open sagebrush country. In the frigid winters, these birds eat only sagebrush leaves. The birds usually avoid trees and tall structures, which provide perches for predators such as hawks and eagles. Historically, there has been a 90% or more loss in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. This is primarily due to conversion of sagebrush areas into towns, farms, roads, reservoirs, etc. That's why it's critical to preserve and improve the remaining habitat for this imperiled bird.