Once found in 13 western states and three Canadian provinces, sage-grouse are found today in 11 states and in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Only about half the suitable habitat once present in the historical range of sage-grouse is still intact, and much of that has been degraded.
Sage-grouse are members of the order Galliforms or “gallinaceous birds” meaning “chickenlike” birds. They constitute a rather generalized group of ground dwelling birds that scratch and peck for food and are largely ground nesters. Familiar birds in this order are grouse, turkey, pheasant, and partridge. Unlike these birds, sage-grouse do not have a muscular gizzard to grind and digest tough foods like grain and seeds. Therefore, the sage-grouse diet is dependent on soft sagebrush leaves.
Sage-grouse are specially adapted to a habitat where snow fall commonly covers all ground vegetation, leaving only the tall sagebrush plants accessible for feed and cover.
Primary threats to the sage-grouse are the conversion, fragmentation, and degradation of its habitat. Sage-grouse, as well as many other species, require a healthy, balanced big sagebrush ecosystem that incorporates perennial grasses and broadleaf forbs.
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