Sharp-Tailed Grouse


The Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) is one of four species of grouse that inhabit steep, grasslands. Historically, Sharp-tailed Grouse were distributed over most of the central and western United States and western Canada.

Sharp-tailed Grouse belong to the Galliformes commonly referred to as upland game birds.


Sharp-tailed Grouse are medium-sized (40-48 cm long, 500-1000 g) birds. Males and females are cryptically colored. Upper body is heavily barred with dark brown, black, and buff. The underside is typically white with tawny margins. Females have darker crown feathers and a continuous dark line along both sides of the central rectrices. Males have also a yellow-orange comb over each eye, and a pale violet airsac.


The Sharp-tailed Grouse is the only extant species of grouse in British Columbia that exhibits lekking behaviour. During spring, and to a lesser extent in fall, males congregate and defend territories in traditional areas known as dancing grounds or leks. Common display behaviours at leks include rapid foot stomping with outstretched wings (“dancing”), squatting and facing other males at territory boundaries, and quick runs along territory boundaries or towards other males. Females visit the lek during the breeding season (March-June). In British Columbia’s southern interior grasslands, peak visits by females occur mid-to late April. Later visits by females may represent second mating attempts after an initial nest failure.


One brood is produced annually. Campbell et al. stated that 56 broods found in British Columbia ranged in size from 1 to 14 young, and averaged 5.6 young.Young can walk soon after hatching, and are capable

of flight when they are 7-10 days old.

Home range

Sharp-tailed Grouse have small annual home ranges, they live on climax grasslands in British Columbia. All “Columbian” radio-collared birds have been located within 2.8km of the lek of capture.


In spring and summer, the bulk of the diet consists of greens, buds, and fruits from grasses, herbs, and shrubs. Winter foods include buds, seeds, herbs, and fruits. Buds of water birch are an important winter food item, because they have a lot of important vitamins. Other important forage species include wild rose, saskatoon, choke cherry, and willow.


Sharp-tailed Grouse use a variety of habitats, although the presence of open areas are juxtaposed with shrubby and/or open parkland is common to all occupied areas. In British Columbia, sharp-tails have been found at elevations from 275 to 2135 m.


Leks, or dancing grounds, are the focal area of the breeding season. Leks may be located on knolls, drumlins and benches, sand dunes, forest clearcuts, meadows, or recent burns.


Females nest soon after mating (May-June). Nests are located on the ground, and are typically situated in open grassy areas.


Sharp-tailed Grouse are prone to predation because of their ground nesting habits, large clutch sizes and lekking behaviour during the breeding season. Raptors and canids are the major predators of Sharp-tailed Grouse. In climax grasslands of southern interior B.C., incidental observations suggest that the main predators of sharp-tails are Coyotes, Northern Goshawks, Short-eared Owls, Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks.


Sharp-tailed Grouse are a popular gamebird where they occur in sufficient numbers to support hunting. In 2002, all open grasslands populations are closed for hunting. Hunting currently remains open only in cutover habitat and sedge meadow complexes in the northern parts of British Columbia, but with daily bag and possession limits.