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Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) | ESA status: none

Greater sage grouse

The greater sage grouse, an ambassador for the Sagebrush Sea, is known for its elaborate mating rituals. This striking, charismatic bird derives its name, food, and shelter from the sagebrush on which it depends.

Greater sage grouse habitat

The greater sage grouse inhabits the Sagebrush Sea and is a classic indicator species for the health of the ecosystem. The historic range of greater sage grouse closely conformed to the distribution of sagebrush steppe in what became 13 Western states and three Canadian provinces. However, greater sage grouse range has been reduced by almost half since the 1900s, while its range-wide abundance has decreased between 69 and 99 percent from historic levels.

Greater sage grouse mating ritual

The greater sage grouse mating ritual is often described as one of the most stirring and colorful natural history pageants in the West. In early spring, at dawn and often at dusk, males congregate on “leks;” ancestral strutting grounds to which the birds return year after year. Leks vary in size from one to 40 acres. To attract a hen, cocks strut, fan their tail feathers and swell their breasts to reveal bright yellow air sacs. The combination of wing movements and inflating and deflating air sacs makes an utterly unique “swish-swish-coo-oopoink!”

What are the threats to the greater sage grouse?

Humans have grazed, plowed, sprayed, burned, drilled, developed, mined, and driven over most of the greater sage grouse’s range. Their remaining habitat is fragmented and degraded by weeds, unnatural fire, conifer encroachment, utility corridors, roads, and fences.

The combination of habitat loss and population decline finally compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make the greater sage grouse a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2010. Unfortunately, the Service found the grouse “not warranted” for listing in 2015. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for approximately half of the sage grouse’s range, and the agency has continued to permit a multitude of harmful land uses on public land, including oil and gas development, livestock grazing, and off-road vehicle use.

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to preserve the greater sage grouse

We have redoubled our efforts to protect greater sage grouse and the Sagebrush Sea. We challenge destructive land uses in sage grouse range, advocate voluntary grazing permit retirement in sagebrush steppe, and fight to improve weak sage grouse management plans that fail to address the most serious threats to the birds.

“Groups Call for Stronger Measures to Conserve Sage-Grouse”
December 1, 2017

“Lawsuit Fights Special Interest Loopholes in Greater Sage-Grouse Plans
February 25, 2016

“Utah May Fail First Test of State’s Sage Grouse Conservation Plan”
August 29, 2014

“Despite Population Crash, Wyoming Grouse Plan Weakens Protections”
March 14, 2014

“Conservation Groups, Forest Service Agree to Strengthen Fracking Safeguards for 1.7 Million Acres of So Utah National Forests”
February 13, 2014

“Nevada Sagebrush Bill: Not Enough for Grouse Conservation”
February 11, 2014

“Federal Grouse Plan for Utah is Far Too Weak”
January 29, 2014

“Conservationists Conclude Wyoming Federal Sage Grouse Plan is ‘Wishy-washy,’ ‘Inadequate’”
December 26, 2013

“Montana-Idaho Sage Grouse Plan Criticized For Lacking Specifics”
“Federal Sage Grouse Plan in Utah Leaves Birds at Risk”
“California-Nevada Sage Grouse Plan Amendments Get Mixed Review”
November 4, 2013

“Groups Act to Halt Habitat Destruction in Douglas Sage Grouse Core Area”
October 28, 2013

“Conservation group calls for stronger protection for North Dakota sage grouse”
October 1, 2013

“Conservation group calls for stronger sage grouse protections in Powder River Basin”
September 26, 2013

“Conservationists Advise Western Governors on Sage-Grouse Conservation”
May 10, 2012

“Powder River Basin Sage-grouse at Risk for Extirpation”
March 16, 2012

“BLM Expands Sage-Grouse Planning Area, Extends Public Comment Period”
February 10, 2012

“Fossil Fuel Development Taking a Toll on Sage-Grouse and Other Wildlife”
January 19, 2012

“Conservationists Optimistic about New Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy”
December 8, 2011

“Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Legislation Introduced in Congress”
November 16, 2011

“Federal Court Approves Historic Species Agreement”
September 9, 2011

“BLM Announces New Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy”
July 21, 2011

“Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates”
May 10, 2011

“Presidential Pardon Requested for Endangered Western Grouse”
November 24, 2010

“New Lawsuit Filed to Protect Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act”
June 29, 2010

“Presidential Pardon Requested for Endangered Western Grouse”
November 24, 2009

“New Study Chronicles Declining Populations, Major Threats to Sage-Grouse”
November 4, 2009

“State of the Birds’ Report Further Evidence of Need to Protect Western Grouse”
March 20, 2009

“Greater Sage-grouse Warranted…but Precluded from ESA Protection”
March 5, 2009

“Bush Administration Takes Parting Shot at Endangered Grouse”
January 17, 2009

“Fish and Wildlife Service Initiates New Listing Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse”
February 26, 2008