Gunnison sage-grouse  Centrocercus minimus
ESA status: threatened

Gunnison Sage Grouse male with females pc Noppadol PaothongGunnison sage-grouse are distinct from their close relative, the greater sage-grouse, and were officially recognized as a new species in 2000. But like the greater sage-grouse, Gunnison sage-grouse are known for their impressive mating ritual. Their annual spring display is a rapid series of visual and acoustical cues. Gunnison sage-grouse males fan their colorful, pointed tail feathers and toss their long, thick filoplumes (hairlike feathers extending back from the nape of the neck) above their heads, puff out their chests and make an utterly unique popping-gurgling sound from air sacs on their breasts.

Gunnison sage-grouse have experienced significant declines from historic numbers and only about 4,000 breeding individuals remain. The species requires large expanses of undisturbed sagebrush steppe with a full compliment of sagebrush species, native grasses and wildflowers, and associated riparian ecosystems. Unfortunately, myriad land uses including livestock grazing, energy development, motorized recreation, and poor land use planning have fragmented and eliminated much of their habitat. While its range may once have included parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, the species now occurs only in eight small populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, representing less than 10 percent of its historic distribution.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally declared Gunnison sage-grouse "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2014. WildEarth Guardians is working to prevent harmful energy development in Gunnison sage-grouse range and advocating for voluntary grazing permit retirement to eliminate livestock grazing in grouse habitat so that the Gunnison sage-grouse might continue to dance into the future.

photo credit: Noppadol Paothong