Greater sage-grouse and Gunnison sage-grouse are closely related, charismatic ambassadors for the Sagebrush Sea, a critically important western landscape that supports hundreds of fish and wildlife species.

A classic umbrella species, sage-grouse need large expanses of healthy sagebrush grasslands and functioning hydrologic systems to survive and flourish. Conserving sage-grouse benefits a host of other species in the Sagebrush Sea, like pronghorn, elk, mule deer, native trout, pygmy rabbit, and nearly 200 migratory and resident bird species.

Accessible, irrigable and rich in minerals, the Sagebrush Sea has been a working landscape since ranchers, miners and homesteaders first laid claim to it 200 years ago. Millions of acres of suitable sage-grouse habitat have already been lost to agriculture and development. The remainder is threatened by land use, climate change, invasive species and unnatural fire. 

Defenders' Impact

Defenders is working to ensure that federal agencies and western states implement conservation measures to restore these magnificent birds and the ecosystem on which they depend.

In 2011, the federal government initiated an unprecedented planning process to update management plans with new sage-grouse conservation measures covering more than 65 million acres of federal public lands in the West. All land use decisions on these public lands, from oil and gas development, to livestock grazing, to wildlife conservation are governed by the revised land use plans.

Defenders was heavily engaged in the National Sage Grouse Planning Strategy that was completed in 2015, after four years and more than $45 million invested in the process. Unfortunately, the Trump administration—and despite expressed opposition from a diversity of stakeholders—reduced or eliminated many key protections in the plans, to the detriment of sage-grouse and hundreds of other sensitive species, as well as local communities and sustainable economies that depend on the Sagebrush Sea. 


Habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, invasive species, and poor management practices.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List

not listed (greater sage-grouse); threatened (Gunnison sage-grouse)

near threatened (greater sage-grouse) and endangered (Gunnison sage-grouse)

What You Can Do

Hold federal agencies, states and local jurisdictions accountable for conserving sage-grouse species. Remove fences, and mark remaining fences with highly visible flags to help prevent sage-grouse from colliding into them. Manage your land through conservation easements. 

Latin Names
Centrocercus urophasianus, Centrocercus minimus
Greater sage-grouse males are 26-30 inches in length and may be as much as two feet long, while females are smaller. Gunnison sage-grouse are 18-22 inches long, with both sexes about the same size.
The average lifespan is 1-3 years, although individual sage-grouse have been known to live up to 10 years.

Greater sage-grouse are a widely distributed but sparsely populated species that occur in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, with remnant populations in Washington, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Gunnison sage-grouse range is limited to southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah.


The total population of greater sage-grouse is estimated between 200,000 and 400,000, while there are less than 5,000 Gunnison sage-grouse remaining.


Sage-grouse use different seasonal habitats over the during the course of the year, with some populations moving up to 100 miles between spring, summer, autumn and winter habitat areas.


The sage-grouse mating ritual is fascinating to observe, and often described as among the most stirring and colorful natural history pageants in the West. In early spring, at dawn and often at dusk, sage-grouse congregate on "leks"—ancestral strutting grounds to which the birds return year after year. Leks vary in size from one to 40 acres and may be up to 50 miles from the birds’ winter habitat. To attract a hen, cocks strut, fan their tail feathers and swell their breasts to reveal yellow air sacs. The combination of wing movements and inflating and deflating air sacs make an utterly unique "swish-swish-coo-oopoink!" 


While sage-grouse will feed on wildflowers, insects and forage crops in spring and summer, they depend on sagebrush for food year-round, and especially in winter when sagebrush is the only available food source.


Washington, DC

Congress Pulls Out Double Barrel Shotgun in Blatant Attack on Wildlife Protections

In a stunning abuse of power, the House Appropriations Committee Majority released its FY24 Interior Appropriations bill which is riddled with destructive riders that attack

Read More About the Sage-Grouse

Wildlife and Wild Places

Get Updates and Alerts