Greater Sage Grouse - Centrocercus urophasianus
This elegant bird is a male of the Greater Sage Grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus (Galliformes - Phasianidae), the largest of North American grouse, which inhabits the shrublands of south-eastern Canada and western United States.
Males of this species have a grey crown, markings on the back of the neck and yellow lores (the region between the eye and bill). The upper chest is brown and buff and the middle is composed of a large white ruff concealing esophageal sacs that inflate during courtship. There is also a large black patch on the abdomen. Females have more cryptic plumage and lack the esophageal sacs that the males have.
The breeding system of the Great Sage Grouse is quite interesting. They employ leks to select mates prior to reproduction; this means that every breeding season, sexually mature individals gather at various sites. These sites are where males display to the females. The purpose of the display is to attract females and defend territories. The males whose display is most attractive to the female, will get to mate with her.
This species is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
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Photo credit: ©Doug Dance | [Top - Locality: near Worland, Wyoming, US - 2009] - [Bottom - Locality: unknown - 2009]