Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)
The largest North American grouse species. Adult males are about 28 inches long on average and weigh about 6 lbs. Hens are about 21 inches in height and weigh about 3 lbs.
Sage-grouse habitat is sagebrush steppe and grassland country. They mostly consume sagebrush leaves, other plant leaves, stems, buds, and insects. Sagebrush is particularly important for sage-grouse in the winter, as it is their primary food source.
During mating season (March-May) the males gather to dance at strutting grounds, known as leks (open areas surrounded by sagebrush cover). Hens usually mate with the most dominant male and nest in suitable sagebrush cover within close proximity to the lek. Hens lay 6-10 eggs similar in size to a chicken’s.
Sage-grouse chicks are able to run and feed on their own upon hatching, but are still dependent on their mother hen for guidance and protection until about 50 days post-hatch.
Wildfire & Sage-grouse
In Washington, sage-grouse habitat is found in the sagebrush covered shrub-steppe and channeled scabland areas, as shown in the sage-grouse priority habitat map (right).
Not only is this area habitat for sage-grouse, it is also highly susceptible to wildfire. Sage-grouse naturally prefer the land that has not been burned in recent decades and has mature sagebrush intact. The concern here is that scablands have a moderate to high potential for wildfire. Protecting the landscape, as well as sage-grouse habitat is crucial to sage-grouse survival.
Sage-grouse can survive up to 9 years in the wild. In Washington, the annual survival rate for males is 56.9% and 72.5% for females.
Populations have been declining since the 1960’s, and in Washington State the sage-grouse is currently considered threatened.