Sage-Grouse Nesting, Brood and Winter Habitat Characteristics in Montana

Jennifer Woodward, Jenny Sika, Carl Wambolt, Jay Newell, Sean Schroff, Bok Sowell


Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) habitat characteristics were studied in central Montana primarily on Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young) dominated rangeland. The primary objective was to compare shrub and herbaceous parameters within (use, random or non-use) and between seasonal habitats (nest, brood, winter). Two study sites (Musselshell and Golden Valley counties), and 2 years (2004 and 2005) were compared. Nest, brood, and random sites were compared for herbaceous cover, and grass height (n = 648). Nest, brood, random, winter use and winter non-use sites were evaluated for shrub cover, density, and height. All differences were considered significant at P ≤ 0.05. Sage-grouse nested in areas with greater total shrub cover and height, and taller live and residual grass than was randomly available. No differences were found between brood and paired random sites for any of the herbaceous or shrub parameters measured. Shrub cover and density were greater at winter use sites than non-use sites. Winter use sites had less shrub cover than nest sites. The nest and brood habitat had similar shrub cover, density, and height on the study area. Sage-grouse habitats should be managed to include sagebrush, forbs, and grass. Herbaceous vegetation was more important during nesting and brood rearing than during the winter. Therefore, some portions of sage-grouse habitat may benefit from management for greater herbaceous cover, but not at the expense of removing sagebrush. Sagebrush cover from 10 to 15 percent was the most consistent component of sage-grouse habitat.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Jennifer Woodward, Jenny Sika, Carl Wambolt, Jay Newell, Sean Schroff, Bok Sowell

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Environmental Management and Sustainable Development  ISSN 2164-7682

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