Home, Home on the Sage: Nothing to Grouse about!


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.   (Exodus 16:13)

Among ground-fowl birds there are some galliforms – called Phasianidae – that resemble one another enough that they are often grouped together, taxonomically, as if they are all super-family “cousins”:  quails, pheasants, partridges, ptarmigans, chickens, peafowl, and grouse-fowl.  One of these Phasianid galliforms, almost the size of a turkey,  will now be considered:  the Greater Sage Grouse.  Since one of the bird’s favorite foods is sagebrush leaves, it is no wonder than the quail-like fowl is often found nesting or foraging in sagebrush-dominated terrain.  Sage grouse eat other leaves as well, if and when accessible, as well as buds, forbs, flowers and bugs.  Insects often eaten by sage grouse include grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.


Greater Sage Grouse   (Centrocercus urophasianus), photo credit: Wikipedia

The GREATER SAGE GROUSE routinely inhabits the Great Basin Desert, thriving in xeric shrublands, a dry steppe-like blend of desert and scrub-grasslands, as well as other sagebrush-dominated lands east of the Great Basin [see Fort Collins Science Center range map, for America’s Sage Grouse].  To appreciate the Greater Sage Grouse’s scrubland habitat, a quick review of the Great Basin Desert is worthwhile.


The “Great Basin” Desert is not the typical “desert” of hot, hot, dry, dry mostly-barren land, studded with cactus and sagebrush vegetation. Rather the Great Basin Desert is a “cold” scrubland desert, meaning that it is dry most of the year, but its temperatures are not hot year-round – in fact, it usually gets more annual precipitation via snowfall than by rainfall.  In other words, the Great Basin is dry enough to qualify as a “desert” (and thus it is not “covered” by forests or grasslands, and typically hot during summer, yet it get quite cold in the winter, with snow winters as the norm.  In this respect the Great Basin is in a class by itself, in North America, unlike America’s other 3 major deserts (the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts) which hare truly “hot deserts”. [See map of the Great Basin Desert, below, compliments of Wikipedia.]


Ecologicallly speaking, the Great Basin includes a mix of rocky soils and scrublands, many dominated by sagebrush, greasewood, saltbush and salty-soil areas, mudflats, and sand dunes, as well as pinyon-juniper woodlands in higher elevations. Geographically speaking, the Great Basin covers almost all of Nevada, plus western Utah, a bit of southern Idaho, and part of the south-central part of Oregon.  [See map, below, compliments of the U.S. Geological Survey, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior.]


Great Basin Desert, USGS map [public domain]

Since the Great Basin Desert is not hot year-round, but routinely experiences snowy winters, its inhabitants must apply climate-response strategies that successfully resolve temperature extremes, such as how to deal with hot and dry summers, plus cool-to-cold winters. Some Great Basin animals migrate, seasonally, while other hibernate, to avoid the inconveniences of snowfall and frigidity.  But how do Greater Sage Grouse deal with the seasonal “climate change” challenges of the Great Basin?


Sagebrush-dominated terrain (photo credit: Scott Smith / Defenders of Wildlife Blog)

In short, the sage grouse stay put, for the most part, throughout all or most of the year.  [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Peterson Field Guides / Houghton Mifflin, 1990), pages 158-159 & Map 96.]  If need be, however, they “micro-migrate” to other nearby areas, although usually only for relatively short distances, so they are not true “migrants”, phenologically speaking.  In other words, depending upon the severity of winter weather, sage grouse may undertake short-distance migrations, to find user-friendly winter habitat, going as far as 100 miles if necessary, although less than 20 miles is more typical.


Sage Grouse, with Pronghorn, in sagebrush  (photo credit” Defenders of Wildlife Blog)

Consider the following facts, summarized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, about the Greater Sage Grouse:

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are members of the Phasianidae family. They are one of two species; the other species in the genus is the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus). The Greater sage-grouse is the largest North American grouse species. Adult male greater sage-grouse range in length from 26 to 30 inches and weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. Adult females are smaller, ranging in length from 19 to 23 inches and weighing between 2 and 4 pounds.  During the spring breeding season, male sage-grouse gather together to perform courtship displays on areas called leks. Areas of bare soil, short-grass steppe, windswept ridges, exposed knolls, or other relatively open sites typically serve as leks, which are often surrounded by denser shrub-steppe cover, which is used for escape, thermal and feeding cover. The proximity, configuration, and abundance of nesting habitat are key factors influencing lek location. Leks can be formed opportunistically at any appropriate site within or adjacent to nesting habitat. Therefore, lek habitat availability is not considered to be a limiting factor for sage-grouse. Leks are indicative of nesting habitat.   Productive nesting areas are typically characterized by sagebrush with an understory of native grasses and forbs, with horizontal and vertical structural diversity that provides an insect prey base, herbaceous forage for pre-laying and nesting hens, and cover for the hen while she is incubating. Shrub canopy and grass cover provide concealment for sage-grouse nests and young, and are critical for reproductive success. The average distance between a female’s nest and the lek on which she was first observed ranged from 2.1 mi to 4.8 mi in five studies examining 301 nest locations, but actual distances can be highly variable. Male sage-grouse do not participate in nesting or rearing of the chicks.   …

During the spring and summer sage-grouse will primarily eat insects and forbs, but they rarely stray from the edge of sagebrush, which provides cover year round. In the fall, sage-grouse shift their diet entirely to sagebrush, depending on the shrub for both food and cover. Sage-grouse obtain their water from the food they eat. However, they will drink water if available. …  Currently, greater sage-grouse occur in 11 States (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, and North Dakota), and 2 Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan), occupying approximately 56 percent of their historical range. Approximately 2 percent of the total range of the greater sage-grouse occurs in Canada, with the remainder in the United States. Sage-grouse have been extirpated from Nebraska, British Columbia, and possibly Arizona. Current distribution of the greater sage-grouse is estimated at 258,075 mi2. Changes in distribution are the result of sagebrush alteration and degradation [because sage grouse depend heavily upon sagebrush for their habitat needs]. …

[Quoting from USFWS, “Beginner’s Guide to Greater Sage-Grouse”.]

So there you have it, Sage Grouse like to live around — and eat — desert scrub sagebrush, so expect to find them living in the sagebrush-dominated areas of the Great Basin Desert..  Perhaps they also have a “dry” sense of humor!


Featured image photo credit:  Stephen Parsons / Cornell

Lee’s Seven Word Sunday – 2/19/17


Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickel



“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6 KJV)

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickel


More Daily Devotionals


Lee’s Three Word Wednesday – 3/2/16


Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickel



For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16 KJV)

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickel


More Daily Devotionals


The Sage in the sagebrush…

The Sage in the sagebrush… – by a j mithra


Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickell

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickell

My name is Mr. Greater Sage Grouse–also known as the sage cock, sage hen, sage chicken, and formerly, western sage grouse which is the largest member of a family of hen-like terrestrial birds known as grouse.

At one time, Washington State had an abundant population of sage grouse. Hunting, loss of habitat because of expanding farm lands and other human development, and devastating wildfires have reduced our population to fewer than 1,500 birds. We are currently a state-threatened species and a federal candidate species.

We, the Sage grouse are herbivores and we eat soft plants, primarily big sagebrush. Big sagebrush is essential to our lives cos, all through our lives, you can find us in or near dense stands of sagebrush. Our female flock nests on the ground under the shrub and seek cover from predators and weather beneath it.

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickell

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by Kent Nickell

From fall through spring the leaves and more succulent stems of big sagebrush make up from 90 to 100 percent of the our diet. During summer and early fall, we leave the dense sage and move to scattered patches of sagebrush found near seeps, streams, or irrigated fields where we eat green forbs and insects, both of which are high in protein and allow rapid growth of young chicks.

One of the most interesting aspects about us is nearly complete reliance on sagebrush. Our habitat requirements are so specific that we are frequently referred to as “sagebrush obligates,” that is, we birds cannot survive in areas where the shrub, with which we share the name, has been removed…

Like us, you Christians too, share the name Christ with which you are identified…
We, the Sage Grouse cannot live without Sage brush plants..
We cannot survive if Sage brush plants are removed from our lives…

Christians means CHRIST IN US…
But, there are so many in your church who do not have Christ in their lives, but, they call themselves as Christians…

Your Bible says,

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)

The Bible also says,

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Corinthians 5:17)

Let your hearts judge if you are worthy of calling yourselves as Christians….

I wish you should know more about the sage brush plant, our eternal home..

Sage Grouse (Centrocercusurophasianus) by Dave's BirdingPix

Sage Grouse (Centrocercusurophasianus) by Dave's BirdingPix

Sagebrush has bacteriostatic, astringent, and antioxidant properties. Sagebrush kills bacteria, inhibits free radicals, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic actions, and so is most useful as a cleansing first aid wash for disinfecting wounds and skin irritations. Tea made from the leaves as a medicine for digestive problems, headache and cold. The leaves can be very useful in your kitchen as a means of protecting stored dried food from insects and rodents…

We have our home, where there is food and protection…
How protected is your home? Do you have a healthy environment?
Do you live a healthy life like the way we live?
Don’t you realize how well you should take care of your health?

Your body is the temple of JESUS, do you know that? Have you not read the following verse in your Bible?

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1Corinthians 3:16,17)

Whenever you think of sage brush, think of us, the Greater Sage Grouse..
We need you..

If only you could take care of the environment, this earth will not only protect you, me and all other living thing, but also will provide us food, water and shelter…

By protecting the earth, you are not only protecting us but protecting your race too…

Live and let us live…


The Greater Sage Grouse
Have a Thoughtful day!

Your’s in YESHUA,
a j mithra

Please visit us at: Crosstree

Lee’s Addition:

Sage Grouse are in the Phasianidae Family of the Galliformes Order. There are 181 members in the family which also includes Turkeys, Chickens, Ptarmigans, Partridges, Snowcock, Francolins, Spurfowls, Junglefowls, Pheasants, Peafowls and others. None of them are on the “unclean-do not eat” list.

Video of a male Sage Grouse displaying