Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gunnison Grouse

Centrocercus minimus
The Gunnison Sage Grouse is the first new species of bird described in the United States since the 1800s. Interestingly, it wasn't classified until 2000, because it bore such a resemblance to the more common Sage Grouse and was overlooked.

Gunnison Sage Grouses are smaller than Sage Grouses, and are significantly more rare. So rare, in fact, that they are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. They live only in a few parts of Colorado and Utah, and are being heavily affected by habitat loss and fragmentation. Hunting has been banned, and efforts to improve the habitat are underway. However, further restoration and research will be needed to get the population on an upward swing. Right now it is estimated that there are only 2,500 birds.

One interesting tidbit about this bird is that the males take part in a Lek breeding system. They stake out areas that they can use as stages. These are usually open patches of ground near sages. The males then strut around and perform, attempting to attract females. Only a few males will actually get to breed.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : United States
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Galliformes
Family : Phasianidae -- Genus : Centrocercus -- Species : C. minimus
Image : USDI

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