Living Bird Magazine
Gunnison Sage-GrouseCentrocercus minimus
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Phasianidae
Gunnison Sage-Grouse are similar to, but rarer than, their close relative the Greater Sage-Grouse. They have the same spectacular courtship, where males gather on lekking grounds to puff themselves up, fan their tails into a starburst, and use bizarre pouches in their chests to make loud burbling noises. Females gather in flocks to decide which males to mate with, then raise the young entirely on their own. Gunnison Sage-Grouse are restricted to western Colorado and eastern Utah; they number about 5,000 and are federally threatened.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The best way to see Gunnison Sage-Grouse is at a lek site—but be aware that sage-grouse are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Because of this species’ low numbers, only one lek is accessible to the public as of 2015. It’s the Wuanita Lek about 19 miles east of Gunnison, Colorado. Western State Colorado University hosts a page about the lek, its current viewing conditions, and behavior and precautions for lek viewing.
- Gallo de Las Artemisas Chico (Spanish)
- Tétras du Gunnison (French)
- Cool Facts
- Greater Sage-Grouse has several subspecies, but the Gunnison Sage-Grouse was never one of them; it was always assumed that the two were the same species. It wasn’t until 2000 that the Gunnison Sage-Grouse was recognized as its own species, making it the first new bird species described in the United States since the 19th century. Differences in size, coloring, plume size and shape, display behavior, and genetics indicate that this species is distinct from the Greater Sage-Grouse.
- Sage-grouse have a specialized stomach that digests the tough sage-brush, their main food.
- Over the harsh winter, sage-grouse actually manage to gain weight and strength in preparation for the breeding season by feeding on the leaves of sagebrush. They get water from feeding on snow.