Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Fact Sheet
What are Sharp-tailed Grouse?
Sharp-tailed Grouse or sharptails are chicken-like birds. These and other grouse are often referred to as upland game birds. Close relatives include the prairie chicken, and the sage grouse.
With six subspecies, the Sharp-tailed Grouse is the most widely distributed prairie grouse in North America. British Columbia supports populations of three subspecies: the Alaskan, Prairie, and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse.
What do they look like?
Sharp-tailed Grouse are brownish-gray, a coloration that allows them to blend in with the surrounding vegetation.
They are a medium-sized grouse approximately 40-48 cm (15-18 inches) in length, and weigh between 500-1000 grams (1-2 lbs.).
Both sexes look very similar from a distance, but males have purple air sacs and broad yellow eyebrows that are visible during breeding displays.
Where do they live?
Sharp-tailed Grouse are the most widely distributed prairie grouse in North America.
The Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse are commonly associated with grasslands and prairies. They are also found in large openings in forested areas such as bogs, meadows, burns, and clearcuts.
In the winter sharptails prefer to use riparian areas where shrubs and trees provide food and cover.
What do they eat?
Sharp-tailed Grouse eat a variety of foods. Adults eat grasses, leaves, fruit of several plants, and buds of trees and shrubs. Sharptail chicks will eat mostly insects. As they grow, their diet becomes increasingly similar to that of adults.
What makes them unique?
Male Sharp-tailed Grouse exhibit an amazing breeding behavior. Each spring, male sharptails gather on dancing grounds (leks) for displaying and mating. These leks are generally located on ridge tops, knolls or benches and are traditional, which means that they are used year after year.
Males display and make vocal sounds to defend their territory and lure females for mating. With their tail erect, wings lowered and neck outstretched the males slowly twist and turn while stomping their feet on the ground producing a drumming sound. Additional sounds are made by inflating and deflating air sacks on the side of the males neck. This display of dancing attracts females to the site for mating.
Click on the screen for some STG sights and sounds!
Why are sharptails considered at risk?
In 1980, the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse was provincially designated a blue-listed (at risk) species. This means that they are vulnerable to disturbances to their habitat.
Sharptails need grasslands to survive. Urban sprawl and conversion of grasslands to agriculture, and indeed any activity that degrades grasslands can reduce the suitability of these dwindling habitats.