- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Phasianidae
One of North America’s spectacular dancing grouse species, the Sharp-tailed Grouse gathers at open display grounds known as leks on spring mornings. Females watch intently as males bend low to the ground, raise their pointed tails skyward, and stamp their feet so fast they become a blur, all while inflating purplish air sacs to make quiet cooing noises. The rest of the year, these plump birds forage in grasslands, open fields, bogs, and forest or woodland, where they take to the trees to nibble buds and berries.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The most rewarding way to look for Sharp-tailed Grouse is to visit a lekking ground on an early spring morning, when you’re likely to be treated to a captivating show of males dancing and scuffling. The birds use the same sites year after year; local birders or farmers may help you find them, although be sure to seek permission to access these sites. Better yet, check with a bird club or local tour group to find group outings, which minimize disturbance while yielding an incredible experience.
- Gallo de las praderas rabudo (Spanish)
- Tétras à queue fine (French)
- Cool Facts
- Scientists place Sharp-tailed Grouse in genus Tympanuchus, the prairie-chickens. The word means “drum nape” and refers to the purple air sacs (extensions of the esophagus) that displaying males inflate at the side of the neck. These sacs are not simply adornments. They amplify the male’s cooing courtship call and may help to show off his overall health.
- Some Native American tribes are very familiar with the spring displays of Sharp-tailed Grouse and have incorporated elements of the birds’ displays into their traditional dances. Some, including the Grouse Dance of the Northern Tutchone people, continue to be practiced in the twenty-first century.
- Sharp-tailed Grouse grow fleshy projections on their toes called pectinae (singular: pectina). They distribute the bird’s weight as it walks on unstable surfaces such as snowfields.
- Like ptarmigan, and like other prairie-chicken species, Sharp-tailed Grouse sometimes build tunnels through snow for their night roosts. The tunnels provide protection from predators and insulation against extreme cold.