Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce Fir
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains

    Northern Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

    Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly to threats, management, and conservation activities include Brewer's Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Vesper Sparrow, and Sage Sparrow.

    Distribution: The largest populations of Northern Sage Grouse in Colorado inhabit Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties with smaller populations (<500 birds) occurring in Larimer, Grand, Eagle, Garfield, and Mesa counties. Populations in Moffat, Routt, and Jackson counties are contiguous with populations in Utah and Wyoming.

    Habitat Requirements: Northern Sage Grouse are sagebrush obligates, depending upon big sagebrush as a primary food and as habitat for nesting, brood rearing, and roosting. They prefer large expanses of big sagebrush on flat or gently rolling terrain, and utilize riparian meadows as brood and summer habitat. They prefer shrub canopy cover averaging between 10% and 20% in brood rearing areas and between 20% and 30% in adult loafing areas. They require the higher percentages for winter habitat (Braun et al.1977). In northwestern Colorado these grouse most commonly reside between 2400 and 2900 m (7,900-9,500 ft) elevation.

    Ecology: Males begin arriving on lekking areas (strutting grounds) in March; hen attendance on leks peaks and mating occurs in early to mid April. Strutting grounds may have 50-100 males, although only a few dominant males perform the majority of copulations. Hens disperse up to 30 km (19 mi) for nesting, although most nest within 5 km (3 mi) of the lek where they mated. Except for summer, when insects and forbs predominate the diet, Sage Grouse depend upon the leaves of sagebrush for food.

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Sage Grouse have been extirpated from four states and are considered at risk in six additional states--including Colorado--and two Canadian provinces. Long term data indicate Sage Grouse populations have declined by 33% range-wide since the mid-1980s, and show a 31% decline in Colorado. The loss of sagebrush habitats through burning, herbicide applications, and conversion to cropland present the greatest threat to Sage Grouse. Additionally, excessive livestock grazing is believed to have detrimental effects upon Sage Grouse nesting and brood-rearing habitat. Better than average grass cover is associated with better than average nest success. Livestock loafing areas around ponds and salting areas coinciding with leks during the spring months may remove the lek from use by grouse. Protect and manage existing sagebrush rangeland to improve nesting and brood-rearing habitats. These improvements are critical to reversing the trends in population and productivity. Restore summer range conditions, and restore relatively undisturbed wet meadows and forbs in the upland plant association.

    Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and throughout its range. Although this species is not monitored by the BBS, data from state wildlife agencies have documented severe population declines and loss of sagebrush habitats range-wide. The BLM lists Sage Grouse as a Sensitive Species. This species is not on the national Watch List, but it would qualify based on its National Partners in Flight Database scores. This species is monitored by CDOW.

    Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the distribution of this species and increase size and productivity of all breeding populations, based on CDOW surveys.

    Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Braun 1995, Braun et al. 1977, Connelly and Braun 1997, Kingery 1998.

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