Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus jamesi)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Virginia's Warbler, Indigo and Lazuli
Distribution: Sharp-tailed Grouse currently reside in an area that forms a triangle from east-central British Columbia southeast to southwestern Manitoba, and south in a narrowing band to
eastern Colorado. In Colorado, birds of the subspecies jamesi reside in Douglas County, northern
Weld County, and Logan County.
Habitat Requirements: Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse inhabit a mix of tall and short grasses
interspersed with stands of shrubs, including Gambel oak, threeleaf sumac, willows, and sand
sagebrush, especially where the shrubs form a dense cover with a relatively open understory. The
woody cover is especially important for brood cover. The Weld County population occupies
CRP lands where tall grasses mix with shorter native species and agricultural fields.
Ecology: Sharp-tailed Grouse migrate short distances to wintering grounds. Males begin
frequenting leks in March, and nesting occurs soon after the females arrive in the area during the
second half of April. Fledged young are present from late May through mid August. The diet
consists of leaves, buds, and fruits of woody plants, and cultivated grains. Young birds consume
significant amounts of animal matter, primarily insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: The overriding factor affecting
populations in Colorado is habitat loss due to conversion to housing developments and, to a lesser
extent, conversion to agriculture. Heavy grazing reduces cover used for nesting. Residual cover
is especially critical, given the early nesting season. Identify and protect leks and surrounding
vegetation; protected habitat should encompass 125 to 530 ha (315-1300 ac) or more.
Management should follow the guidelines spelled out in the state recovery plan (Braun et al.
Status and Reasons for Concern: The Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse is listed as Endangered in
Colorado. BBS surveys do not adequately monitor this subspecies within the shortgrass
physiographic area, and BBS data are too sparse for meaningful analysis of trends. This species is
monitored by CDOW.
Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results from
CDOW monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Braun et al. 1992, Connelly et al. 1998,
Kingery 1998, Prose 1987.