Wildlife habitat on rangelands is one of the most pressing conservation issues in western North America. Nearly all western upland gamebird species rely on rangeland habitats. USU Extension's Rangeland-Wildlife Habitat Lab focuses on providing the best available scientific information concerning the assessment of management and conservation practices for these species, especially our native grouse species.
Grouse species are found on all northern hemisphere continents and are part of the Tetraonidae family. All grouse species tend to rely on large landscapes of intact habitat, from open ecosystems like grasslands and shrublands to forested areas. Anthropogenic influences on land use, such as development, urbanization, agriculture, etc., that causes fragmentation and loss of habitat often affects these species. Consequently, most grouse species are currently listed with some level conservation concern within the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( ).
Breeding displays of male grouse are often eccentric and many of these species are considered iconic. All male grouse display to attract females in the spring. Species such as sage-grouse, prairie grouse, black grouse, and capercaillie breed on leks. Leks, sometimes called dancing grounds, are areas where multiple males gather in relatively close proximity (i.e., a few meters) to compete, display, and attract females. Grouse have female-based mate selection which has resulted in relatively high degrees of sexual dimorphism and elaborate breeding displays by males. Other grouse species, such as dusky, ruffed, and hazel grouse do not necessarily lek, but males, and sometimes females, can be territorial during the breeding period. All grouse species, except ptarmigan, are polygamous and males do not provide parental care for young.