Sharp-tailed Grouse

Tympanuchus phasianellus

Description 4

Adults have a relatively short tail with the two central (deck) feathers being square-tipped and somewhat longer than their lighter, outer tail feathers giving the bird its distinctive name. The plumage is mottled dark and light browns against a white background, they are lighter on the underparts with a white belly uniformly covered in faint "V"-shaped markings. These markings distinguish sharp-tailed grouse from lesser and greater prairie chickens which are heavily barred on their underparts(Connelly et al. 1998). Adult males have a yellow comb over their eyes and a violet display patch on their neck. This display patch is another distinguishing characteristic from prairie chickens as male prairie chickens have yellow or orange colored air sacs(Connelly et al. 1998). The female is smaller than the male and can be distinguished by the regular horizontal markings across the deck feathers as opposed to the irregular markings on the males deck feathers which run parallel to the feather shaft. Females also tend to have less obvious combs. Males weigh an average of 33.5 oz (951 g) and females average 29 oz (815 g).

Behavior 4

These birds forage on the ground in summer, in trees in winter. They eat seeds, buds, berries, forbs, and leaves, also insects, especially grasshoppers, in summer.

The sharp-tailed grouse is a lekking bird species. These birds display in open areas known as leks with other males, anywhere from a single male to upwards of 20 will occupy one lek (averaging 8-12). A lek is defined as an assembly area where animals carry on display and courtship behavior (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2010). During the spring, male sharp-tailed grouse attend these leks from March through July with peak attendance in late April, early May (Conelly et al. 1998). These dates do fluctuate from year to year based on the weather. Johnsgard (2002) observed weather delayed lekking of up to two weeks by sharp-tailed grouse in North Dakota. The males display on the lek by stamping their feet rapidly, about 20 times per second, and rattle their tail feathers while turning in circles or dancing forward. Purple neck sacs are inflated and deflated during display. The males use "cooing" calls also to attract and compete for females (Sisson 1969; Bergerud and Gratson 1988; Conelly et al. 1998). The females select the most dominant one or two males in the center of the lek, copulate, and then leave to nest and raise the young in solitary from the male. Occasionally a low-rank male may disguise himself as a female and walk to where the dominant male is and fight him.

Feeding 4

These birds forage on the ground in summer, in trees in winter. They eat seeds, buds, berries, forbs, and leaves, also insects, especially grasshoppers, in summer.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) p.of.c, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.flickr.com/photos/36617137@N04/4069373709
  2. (c) L Pittman, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/934209
  3. (c) Tatiana Gettelman, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/tatiana-gettelman/9822488896/
  4. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharp-tailed_grouse

More Info

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Animal Bird
Color brown
Bird Phasianidae (grouse)