Saving the Strutting Sage Grouse: BYU Studies a Fragile Species

Saving the Strutting Sage Grouse: BYU Studies a Fragile Species

Sage Grouse are an interesting species
and a fun species. They’re what’s called lekking species and so they return every
spring to a communal breeding ground where the male’s puff up their air sacs
and do kind of a dance. I always think that they kind of look like they’re from
a Transformers movie or something. They’re a little camouflage bird and
then all of a sudden they they transform into this big thing that’s strutting
around the yellow air sacs. The display is really something else, their chests,
it’s like shaking when they make the sound the sound they make you would not
expect to hear from a bird. It’s like something from a different planet. Sage Grouse are kind of a funny little species and people might not understand
why sage grouse are important. Sage Grouse are a sagebrush obligate
which means that they’re tied heavily to the amount of sagebrush and the type of
sagebrush that we have. They eat sagebrush which is not very common for
animals to do so the condition that the sagebrush is in is crucial to their
livelihoods. They’re also an important part of this ecosystem the sagebrush
steppe they share the habitat with a lot of other species so if they’re doing
well then we know everything else is probably doing well too. They’re
certainly an indicator species for a healthy landscape and a healthy
ecosystem which is something I think everybody wants. So BYU started doing
sage-grouse research way back in the late 1990s to try and recover the
sage grouse population in Strawberry Valley in the 1930s and 40s there were
maybe 3,500 by the late 1990s it had crashed to 150.
Typically these projects involve capturing grouse at night fitting them
with some kind of a tracking device. I I put a student on either side of me with
a long pull net and I’ve got the backpack generator with a spotlight and
we go out where we’re just looking for sage grouse and once we see them the
people on either side of me rush forward and they met the bird, we take a few
measurements and then we either strap on a radio collar or a GPS harness. The GPS
transmitters are automated so four or five times a day though the satellite
will get a fix on that bird and then once a week I download that data and I
know exactly where that birds been all week. With the radio collars it’s a
little bit trickier we have to do some on ground tracking. The sage grouse have
a really large home range I’ve heard sometimes that they have a range of
about 40 miles and for a bird that’s pretty incredible. They get a radio
antenna they’ll physically track the bird it
kind of gives a hot or cold signal until you can actually see the bird.
We’ve worked since 1998 at the University to try and recover this
population and now the population is over 400 maybe getting close to 500, one
of the very very few positive stories for sage grouse across the western
United States. As we continue to do research and as we continue to manage
this species will continue to see sage grouse in the future


  1. Awesome video! One suggestion: Have a longer segment in which the sounds are highlighted, without talking at the same time.

  2. Say it ain’t so? Once the greater ground Sage Grouse are gone, they are gone forever…Did someone tell this to President Trump?

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