Species Profile

Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies

Scientific Name: Centrocercus urophasianus phaios
Other/Previous Names: Sage Grouse (British Columbia population)
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2008
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extirpated
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extirpation | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies

Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies Photo 1



The Greater Sage-Grouse has mostly brownish-grey upper parts, with a blackish abdomen. The long pointed tail is black and white and the wing linings are whitish. It is the largest grouse species in Canada. Adult males are larger and heavier than females, typically weighing about 2.3 kilograms and averaging 75 cm in length. Adult males also sport a white throat strap and a large white bib of spiky feathers concealing yellowish air sacs. Females and young males are similarly patterned but are more cryptically coloured. (Updated 2008/06/05)


Distribution and Population

The Greater Sage-Grouse is found mainly in the large sagebrush and silver sagebrush ranges of North America. It is most common now in southwestern Colorado, particularly in the Gunnison Basin area. The Canadian range extends from the Milk River area of southeastern Alberta to the Wood Mountain area of southern Saskatchewan. Before they were extirpated, the British Columbia populations occurred in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. The species is also extirpated from Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Eight to 10 million Sage-Grouse may have existed throughout the species' range before European settlement. The species was probably never common in British Columbia. The bird's decline has been blamed on excessive hunting and loss of habitat, especially through agricultural conversion of sage flats. The last naturally occurring B.C. Sage-Grouse was likely shot in 1918. Reintroduction efforts in 1958 proved to be unsuccessful. There have been no confirmed sightings of the bird in British Columbia since 1966. In Alberta, there were approximately 560 birds according to the 2000 population estimate, with 126 males at 8 active leks. Saskatchewan had an estimated 550 animals in 2000, with 124 males at 11 active leks. The population is increasing in Alberta, and populations in Saskatchewan have increased somewhat from record low levels and have been relatively stable over the past 5 years. (Updated 2008/06/05)



Sagebrush is necessary for nesting and wintering habitat. High quality cover is essential for nesting and brood rearing. The Canadian distribution falls within the mixed-grassland ecoregion, dominated by speargrass, blue grama, wheatgrass and June grass. Medium to finely textured brown chernozem soils are characteristic of the mixed grasslands. Sparsely vegetated areas are preferred for leks (settings for male exhibits during breeding season). Broods use silver sagebrush-grassland near nest sites for up to four weeks after hatching. They move next to succulent forb habitat near water. Broods increase the amount of sagebrush in diet as they mature and move to sagebrush-dominated habitats by autumn. (Updated 2008/06/05)



Male Greater Sage-Grouse group together in April and May to form leks - a mating system where males display communally at a traditional site to attract females. Male displays include strutting about with the tail erect and fanned out; wings held rigid and almost touching the ground; and neck sacs inflated, then deflated to make a loud popping sound. The more dominant males occupy centre stage and are also more successful at mating than shyer counterparts. Breeding success also depends on the age and health of males. Sub-adult birds have reduced testicular development and lower sperm production compared with adult males. Birds with chewing lice or avian malaria are less likely than healthy males to be chosen as mates. Only 10 to 15 % of males breed. The species is known to be polygamous. Females initiate nesting soon after mating. The nests are usually located under sagebrush plants. The average clutch size is 7 to 9, but females may lay up to 12 eggs. Eggs are laid at intervals of 1.3 days. Incubation lasts 25 to 27 days. Chicks generally leave the nest within an hour of hatching. (Updated 2008/06/05)


Reasons for extirpation

Inclement weather, habitat degradation and habitat conversion are major limiting factors for this species. Hunting, oil and gas developments and collisions with fences, farm vehicles and power poles are also contributing factors. Parasites and predators (Golden Eagles, bobcats, weasels, domestic cats and coyotes) are detrimental as well. Tapeworm is responsible for 59 % of juvenile mortality. Pesticide use is a factor, especially in the United States. Overgrazing probably contributed to the decline of the subspecies in British Columbia. (Updated 2008/06/05)



Federal Protection

The Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse phaios subspecies (Centrocercus urophasianus phaios) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

13 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Greater Sage-Grouse, Phaios subspecies and Urophasianus subspecies (2008)

    Greater Sage-Grouse, Phaios subspecies – British Columbia population Has not been reported since the 1960s. Designated Extirpated in April 1997. Status re–examined and confirmed in May 2000 and April 2008. Last assessment based on an update status report. Greater Sage-Grouse, Urophasianus subspecies – Prairie population Given conditional designation of Threatened in April 1997. Status re–examined and designated Endangered in April 1998 based on a revised status report. Status re–examined and confirmed in May 2000 and April 2008. Last assessment based on an update status report.
  • COSEWIC Assessment on the Greater Sage Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus in Canada Phaios subspecies (Prairie and BC Populations) (2000)

    Prairie Population: Given conditional designation of Threatened in April 1997. Status re-examined and designated to Endangered in April 1998 based on a revised status report. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000. Last assessment based on an existing status report. British Columbia Population: Has not been reported since the 1960s. Designated Extirpated in April 1997. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000. Last assessment based on an existing status report.

Response Statements

Recovery Strategies


  • Emergency Order for the Protection of the Greater Sage-Grouse (2014)

    The purpose of the Emergency Order for the Protection of the Greater Sage-Grouse, made pursuant to the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is to address the imminent threats to the survival and recovery of the Greater Sage-Grouse, including by protecting the habitat identified in the Emergency Order to help stabilize the population and begin its recovery.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.


  • Agricultural Producers and the Sage-Grouse Recovery Strategy (2015)

    Successful recovery of the Sage-Grouse requires involvement of agricultural producers, local stakeholders and governments at all levels. For its part, the Government of Canada starts with developing a Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy is a planning document that describes current scientific knowledge on threats to species and identifies critical habitat needed for the survival and recovery of the Sage-Grouse. The Recovery Strategy also identifies measures that could be taken to help stop the decline of Sage-Grouse. Voluntary stewardship actions by agricultural producers are important to Sage-Grouse recovery, and assistance is available from the Government of Canada to support activities recommended in the Recovery Strategy.
  • Summary and Questions & Answers: Emergency Order – Greater Sage-Grouse (2013)

    The purpose of the Emergency Order for the Protection of the Greater Sage-Grouse is to address the imminent threats to the survival and recovery of the Sage-Grouse to help stabilize the population and begin its recovery. The Government of Canada’s goal is to achieve the best protection for the Greater Sage-Grouse, while minimizing impacts on landowners and agricultural producers. The Emergency Order will come into force on February 18, 2014. The prohibitions contained in the Emergency Order only apply to habitat on federal and provincial crown lands in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Grazing will not be regulated by the Emergency Order. In areas where grazing can be modified to improve Greater Sage-Grouse habitat, the Government of Canada will provide incentives for voluntary stewardship measures through programs like the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk.
  • The Greater Sage-Grouse (2013)

    The Greater Sage-Grouse is a large ground-dwelling bird that has finely marked brown, black, beige and white upper parts, a black belly, and a long pointed tail. It is the largest grouse species found in North America. Within the white breast feathers of the male Greater Sage-Grouse, there are two large air sacs that are inflated and deflated as part of a spectacular mating display.

Related Information

  • Information on the Sage Grouse Recovery Strategy and Emergency Protection Order (2014)

    The Sage-Grouse is an endangered bird species that depends on the unique prairie ecosystem in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In 2012, there were estimated to be roughly 100 adults remaining in Canada. The population has declined by 98% since 1988. The Government of Canada’s plan for successful recovery of this species includes the Emergency Protection Order, which focuses on imminent threats to the species in the wild, the Amended Recovery Strategy, which will guide recommended voluntary stewardship activities on Sage-Grouse habitat, and a joint program with the Calgary Zoo to breed and rear Sage-Grouse chicks in a safe environment to help increase the population in the wild.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017