The Gunnison Sage-grouse is a newly-classified, unique species of sage-grouse found south of the Colorado River. They are about one-third smaller than the typical sage grouse, and males have more distinct, white tail feathers and filoplume. Female Gunnison and typical sage grouse have nearly the same plumage, but the female Gunnison is again about one-third smaller than other sage grouse.The separate populations in Colorado are:
Pinion Mesa, Crawford, San Miguel Basin, Gunnison Basin, Dove Creek and Poncha Pass. The Utah population is near Monticello.Range:
Historically, Gunnison Sage-grouse were found throughout the southwestern portion of Colorado and the southeastern Utah. Approximately 3,500 breeding Gunnison Sage-grouse occur among 7 separate populations throughout SW Colorado and SE Utah. The largest population, about 2,500 birds, inhabits the Gunnison Basin.Habitat:
The Gunnison Sage-grouse requires a variety of habitats such as large expanses of sage with a diversity of grasses and forbs and healthy riparian ecosystems.
Diet: The Gunnison Sage-grouse is quite dependent on sagebrush. In the fall and winter, the leathery leaves of sagebrush are one of its only foods.
Reproduction: Male Gunnison Sage-grouse conduct an elaborate display when trying to attract females to breeding grounds, or leks. They will strut, flap their wings against their white pouches and utter a distinctive series of sounds by vocalizing and popping two air sacs within their pouches. Nesting begins in mid-April and continues into July. Females typically lay six to eight eggs, which are incubated for 25 to 27 days.
Endangered status: The Gunnison sage-grouse is a species of special concern in Colorado. Human development, livestock grazing, water diversion projects and increased ungulate populations have all contributed to historic losses of habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse. In the early 1990s, state wildlife managers, researchers and biologists began working in collaboration with the communities and private landowners in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat to study the birds and provide habitat protection. Since that time, populations of the bird have stabilized and even expanded in the core areas and more than $30 million dollars has been spent on habitat protection.
In 2013, Gunnison sage-grouse was proposed for an "endangered" listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. On April 2, 2013 Colorado Parks and Wildlife officially responded to the proposal to list. Along with landowners and other partners, CPW has led conservation efforts for Gunnison sage-grouse for decades. We believe that the existing data does not support the proposed listing. Read the CPW comments .
Research & Conservation: This project was implemented by the Gunnison Climate Working Group to address projected climate change impacts to Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. The group is trying to enhance the resiliency of riparian/wet meadows by "Letting The Water Do The Work" through the use of Bill Zeedyk's "Sticks and Stones" structures.
Gunnison Sage-grouse only inhabit 10 percent of their original range. They once ranged throughout Southwestern Colorado and into parts of Utah and New Mexico. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other state and federal agencies have joined forces to create a range-wide conservation plan.