Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies
Scientific Name: Centrocercus urophasianus phaios
Other/Previous Names: Sage Grouse (British Columbia population)
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2008
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extirpated
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated
Image of Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies
The Greater Sage-Grouse has mostly brownish-grey upper parts, with a blackish abdomen. The long pointed tail is black and white and the wing linings are whitish. It is the largest grouse species in Canada. Adult males are larger and heavier than females, typically weighing about 2.3 kilograms and averaging 75 cm in length. Adult males also sport a white throat strap and a large white bib of spiky feathers concealing yellowish air sacs. Females and young males are similarly patterned but are more cryptically coloured.
Distribution and Population
The Greater Sage-Grouse is found mainly in the large sagebrush and silver sagebrush ranges of North America. It is most common now in southwestern Colorado, particularly in the Gunnison Basin area. The Canadian range extends from the Milk River area of southeastern Alberta to the Wood Mountain area of southern Saskatchewan. Before they were extirpated, the British Columbia populations occurred in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. The species is also extirpated from Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Eight to 10 million Sage-Grouse may have existed throughout the species' range before European settlement. The species was probably never common in British Columbia. The bird's decline has been blamed on excessive hunting and loss of habitat, especially through agricultural conversion of sage flats. The last naturally occurring B.C. Sage-Grouse was likely shot in 1918. Reintroduction efforts in 1958 proved to be unsuccessful. There have been no confirmed sightings of the bird in British Columbia since 1966. In Alberta, there were approximately 560 birds according to the 2000 population estimate, with 126 males at 8 active leks. Saskatchewan had an estimated 550 animals in 2000, with 124 males at 11 active leks. The population is increasing in Alberta, and populations in Saskatchewan have increased somewhat from record low levels and have been relatively stable over the past 5 years.
Sagebrush is necessary for nesting and wintering habitat. High quality cover is essential for nesting and brood rearing. The Canadian distribution falls within the mixed-grassland ecoregion, dominated by speargrass, blue grama, wheatgrass and June grass. Medium to finely textured brown chernozem soils are characteristic of the mixed grasslands. Sparsely vegetated areas are preferred for leks (settings for male exhibits during breeding season). Broods use silver sagebrush-grassland near nest sites for up to four weeks after hatching. They move next to succulent forb habitat near water. Broods increase the amount of sagebrush in diet as they mature and move to sagebrush-dominated habitats by autumn.
Male Greater Sage-Grouse group together in April and May to form leks - a mating system where males display communally at a traditional site to attract females. Male displays include strutting about with the tail erect and fanned out; wings held rigid and almost touching the ground; and neck sacs inflated, then deflated to make a loud popping sound. The more dominant males occupy centre stage and are also more successful at mating than shyer counterparts. Breeding success also depends on the age and health of males. Sub-adult birds have reduced testicular development and lower sperm production compared with adult males. Birds with chewing lice or avian malaria are less likely than healthy males to be chosen as mates. Only 10 to 15 % of males breed. The species is known to be polygamous. Females initiate nesting soon after mating. The nests are usually located under sagebrush plants. The average clutch size is 7 to 9, but females may lay up to 12 eggs. Eggs are laid at intervals of 1.3 days. Incubation lasts 25 to 27 days. Chicks generally leave the nest within an hour of hatching.
Reasons for extirpation
Inclement weather, habitat degradation and habitat conversion are major limiting factors for this species. Hunting, oil and gas developments and collisions with fences, farm vehicles and power poles are also contributing factors. Parasites and predators (Golden Eagles, bobcats, weasels, domestic cats and coyotes) are detrimental as well. Tapeworm is responsible for 59 % of juvenile mortality. Pesticide use is a factor, especially in the United States. Overgrazing probably contributed to the decline of the subspecies in British Columbia.
Federal ProtectionThe Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name National Recovery Strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies (Centrocercus urophasianus phaios)
Status Not yet initiated
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
13 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (2 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Factsheet (3 record(s) found.)
- Related Information (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Greater Sage-Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus, Phaios subspecies Centrocercus urophasianus phaios and Urophasianus subspecies, Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus, in Canada (2008)Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest grouse in North America. It is one of two Centrocercus species; the other is the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Centrocercus minimus, restricted to the Gunnison Valley of Colorado. Two subspecies of Greater Sage-Grouse are known from Canada: C. u. urophasianus in Alberta and Saskatchewan and C. u. phaios in the south Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The latter form is extirpated.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
The Greater Sage-Grouse (2013)The Greater Sage-Grouse is a large ground-dwelling bird that has finely marked brown, black, beige and white upper parts, a black belly, and a long pointed tail. It is the largest grouse species found in North America. Within the white breast feathers of the male Greater Sage-Grouse, there are two large air sacs that are inflated and deflated as part of a spectacular mating display.
Recovery Document Posting Plans
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