A large, chicken-like bird of western sagebrush landscapes. Adult male has blackish head, white breast, black belly, black upperparts marbled with white, short yellow legs, and long, finely barred tail. Female is finely patterned brown, black, and white overall, with solid black belly, large black spots on sides, weak white supercilium, and sharp tail. In flight, tail is wedge-shaped, and underwings are white with dark flight feathers. Male displays by puffing, inflating and deflating yellow air sacs along throat, raising crown feathers, and strutting turkey-like with stiff tail while vocalizing. Male is larger than female. Gunnison Sage-Grouse, an isolated population in Colorado, is now considered a separate species.
Length: 71 (cm) Wingspan: 97 (cm)
Male in display emits strange popping, hooting noises created by deflating air sacs. Air sacs brushing against breast feathers sound like nylon rubbing on nylon. Calls include soft clucking notes.
Sagebrush, usually where annual grasses have not been grazed.
In early spring, males perform early-morning strutting displays at concentrated traditional leks; females browse among the males to choose mates. During rest of the year, usually found in pairs or small groups among sagebrush. Nest is in a lined ground depression under sagebrush clump.
Forages on ground, pecking at a variety of seeds, grains, leaves, buds, and flowers.
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