Hey Defenders! This animal of the week is a heavy bodied an endangered ground bird that many defenders could easily mistake for a miniature turkey. They have large breast muscles and tails that flare upwards on the back of the bird. These cute, little, round, ground feeders are in a special group of birds that contains things like turkeys, chickens, pheasants along with other well known birds, called the Galliformes. This bird is one of two species of and the other species is called the Gunnison Sage Grouse. They are well known for their impressive mating displays where they puff out their white chest while they inflate and deflate huge yellow air sacs located in their breasts. Male Sage Grouse share a special mating ground called “leks” where they all congregate to compete with other males and show off to females.
Where do Sage Grouse Live?
Both species are found in Western areas of North America, in a specific habitat know as the Sagebrush Steppe. Steppes are basically large flat areas of land with no forest and sagebrush steppes are ones heavily dominated by sagebrush. The Greater Sage Grouse loves sage and often takes shelter in the larger species of sage.
How long do Sage Grouse Live?
Believe it or not, Greater Sage Grouse have an incredibly short life span and on average live less than two years. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service state there have been Greater Sage Grouse on record living up to 9 years!
Do They Actually Eat Sagebrush?
Yes, Greater Sage Grouse do eat sagebrush! They are ground feeding birds that will eat plants and insects. They will eat leaves, flowers and flower buds from many different plants and tend to primarily eat sagebrush throughout the year. Seasonal changes can affect the availability of different foods and temporarily change what the Greater Sage Grouse focus on eating. Although the Greater Sage grouse does eat things like insects, they are fully reliant on sagebrush and cannot survive in areas without it.
Can They Fly?
Many Defenders think that because they are a rounder heavy little bird that they cannot fly, but just like the majority of birds they can! Greater Sage Grouse can fly around 2-3 weeks old, but for obvious reasons are not that good at flight at that age. This endangered bird starts to perfect flight around 6 weeks of age.
Does the Greater Sage Grouse Have Predators?
Yes, they do defenders! Greater Sage Grouse actually have quite a few predators and are considered important factors in their particular habitats. Sage Grouse are commonly preyed on by birds of prey and other bird species like ravens and magpies. They regularly fall prey to mammals like coyotes, badgers, raccoons, and bobcats. Along with needing to be on the lookout regularly for predators trying to eat them and their nests raided by numerous animals regularly. They are also heavily hunted by the most dangerous predators of all….Humans!
Greater Sage Grouse are super cool birds that have an incredibly unique lifestyle, diet and mating system. They have been the center of conservation talks for quite some time, and many people think they should be added to the endangered species list. Development and loss of habitat have caused them to drop from well over 15 million individuals, to below half a million. If you want to learn more about other endangered birds, be sure to check out the bird center in the Kids’ Zone, and if you want to see some awesome videos head to our YouTube Channel for our latest videos!