Priority Bird

Gunnison Sage-Grouse

Centrocercus minimus

A rare and localized bird, found in southwestern Colorado and a small part of adjacent Utah. Remarkably, this bird was not recognized as a separate species from the Greater Sage-Grouse until the year 2000. The two species are very similar, but this one is smaller, and males have a more strongly banded pattern on the tail feathers.
Conservation status Has disappeared from about 90 percent of its former range, owing to loss and degradation of habitat. Current population is in the low thousands and probably still declining.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Sagebrush plains. Found on open plains and high valleys, but only in vicinity of sagebrush. Prime nesting habitat includes some lower wet areas where young can forage for insects.
A rare and localized bird, found in southwestern Colorado and a small part of adjacent Utah. Remarkably, this bird was not recognized as a separate species from the Greater Sage-Grouse until the year 2000. The two species are very similar, but this one is smaller, and males have a more strongly banded pattern on the tail feathers.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult male, displaying
Feeding Behavior

Forages by walking on ground, browsing leaves and other plant parts, or picking up items from ground.


Eggs

Usually 7-9, sometimes 6-13. Olive-buff, evenly dotted with brown. Incubation is by female only, 25-27 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but do not reach adult size until much later.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but do not reach adult size until much later.

Diet

Mostly sage leaves and buds, also insects. Diet in fall and winter may be almost entirely the leaves and fresh shoots of sagebrush. At other seasons, also eats leaves, flowers, and buds of a wide variety of plants; also some insects in summer (young eat many insects at first). Unlike most grouse, digestive system is not adapted for digesting hard seeds.


Nesting

Traditional display grounds may be used for years. In courtship display, male puffs out white chest, inflates two yellow air sacs, raises and spreads tail, and raises tuft of plumes on back of head; head is thrown back as air sacs are deflated with low popping sound. Females visit display ground to mate with one of the males. Oldest and most experienced males compete for positions at center of display ground, and these males are usually chosen by females. Nest site is on ground, under sagebrush or clump of grass. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression, sparsely lined with plant material.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mainly a permanent resident, but may perform some limited local movements.

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Migration

Mainly a permanent resident, but may perform some limited local movements.

Songs and Calls
Displaying male gives 9 or 10 hooting gobbles on one low pitch, interspersed with 3 wing noises; very different from display of Greater Sage-Grouse.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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Sagebrush Ecosystem

Sagebrush Ecosystem

Balancing prairie-bird protection with our nation’s need for energy

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