The sagehen, or greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), is a bird that has a distinct mottle gray-brown color with a black belly. Males of this species have a black head and throat, and a white ruff that surrounds a pair of inflatable yellow air sacs. During displays, these air sacs produce distinct liquid popping noises when thrust forward.
The cheek patch of the female species is of a dark hue and can be easily distinguished with white markings located behind her eye.
This species had once roamed across 16 U.S. states and parts of Canada including Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, the Canadian population has drastically decreased by 98% since 1988. In response, an emergency protection order was issued by the Canadian Governor in Council in 2013 to prevent further decline. Meanwhile, in the same year, the Greater sage grouse vanished from five U.S. states.
Throughout the autumn and winter months, the primary food source for Greater sage-grouse consists of leaves and fresh shoots of the sagebrush. However, in other seasons, they also consume a diverse range of plants including leaves, buds, and flowers. During summers, they occasionally feed on insects as well.
In the springtime, male Great sage-grouse gather in leks for a unique dance routine called the “strutting display”. During this performance, they inflate two yellowish sacs on their necks and spread out their tails. The female birds observe this spectacle from a distance and then choose the most appealing males to breed with.
In about a week or so after selecting its partner, the female bird constructs a nest close to a breeding ground. Typically, it lays six to eight eggs and spends around 25 to 27 days incubating them. The newborns start flying after two weeks but still rely on their parents until they reach 10 to 12 weeks old.
The Greater sage-grouse is facing a grave danger of extinction due to various factors including overhunting, loss of habitat, and predation.
You can witness the impressive display of the Greater sage-grouse below: