Sage-Grouse Habitat Requirements

Sage-grouse depend on a variety of semiarid shrub-grassland (or shrub steppe) habitats throughout their life cycle and specifically require sagebrush for cover and forage. They are very loyal to their seasonal nesting, breeding, brood rearing, and wintering areas, which makes it hard for them to adapt to changes in their environment.

Leks and Nesting Areas

Sage-grouse are most known for their courtship displays on small clearings called leks. During breeding season males court females on these relatively bare areas surrounded by sagebrush and grasslands. Sagebrush and grasslands surrounding leks are required for cover during breeding season as well as nesting habitat. High quality nesting areas are generally comprised of sagebrush with an understory of native grasses and forbs, a variety of cover is required to conceal nests and also provide insects to sustain the adult sage-grouse.


Brood-rearing and Summer

After the sage-grouse hatch, the brood-rearing period begins. During brood-rearing many sage-grouse gradually move to moist areas, such as streambeds and wet meadows. These wetter areas are required through the summer because they provide sage-grouse and chicks with essential insects and forbs. As wet areas decrease over the summer, sage-grouse return to sagebrush habitats and their diet shifts entirely to sagebrush.

Sagebrush Facts:

  • Sagebrush is considered one of the most imperiled ecosystems in North America.
  • Sagebrush can live up to 150 years.
  • After fire or destruction, sagebrush requires decades for full recovery.

Juniper control improves habitat for sage-grouse

Western juniper trees have been encroaching on upland and meadow habitat in the Owyhee Mountains for more than 50 years. Juniper encroachment causes problems for the Greater Sage-grouse, a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and degrades habitat for wildlife and livestock grazing. A new method called "juniper mastication" has been applied on more than 5,000 acres of private land in Owyhee County, and the results appear promising. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost-share funds for the control work. The Nature Conservancy and others are monitoring the results.

Monarchs in North America

Monarch butterflies occur in North America, as well as other regions of the world. The most significant populations occur in North America and Mexico where they are generally divided into two populations, east and west of the Rocky Mountains. The western population is smaller, and those monarchs spend their winters along the California coast. The much larger eastern population winters in a single region – the forested mountains of central Mexico. Additionally, a very small non-migratory population winters in Florida.

Monarch Migrations

Whether monarchs are present in a given area depends on the time of year. They are one of the few migratory insects, traveling great distances between summer breeding habitat and winter habitat where they spend several months inactive. In the summer they range as far north as southern Canada. In the fall the eastern population migrates to the cool, high mountains of central Mexico and the western population migrates to coastal California, where they spend the entire winter.

In March, the first adults from the eastern population leave Mexico and begin their northern and multi-generational migration. Adult monarchs forage on nectar contained in flowers of milkweeds, as well as many other flowering plants. They lay eggs only on milkweed plants in the genus Asclepias. The adults that wintered in Mexico primarily lay eggs on milkweed plants in northern Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, but many travel to other southern states.

The population east of the Rocky Mountains contains the majority of the North American monarch population, which completes its northward migration through successive generations. They are found in the highest concentrations along a migratory flyway corridor through the central United States. In spring the monarchs leave overwintering grounds in Mexico and migrate north into Texas and the Southern Plains, then up through the Northern Plains and the Midwest, and finally up into the Great Lakes region. By late summer, eastern monarchs have spread north into Canada and eastward from the central migratory corridor throughout the Northeast and Southeast states.

From September into early October, fall southern migration to Mexico begins, with the majority of monarchs following the reverse path south along the central migratory corridor. Monarchs from the Northeast head south along the Atlantic coast, concentrating in the states that make up the Delmarva Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay on the journey. Florida is a stop for many monarchs before they fly over the Gulf Coast to Mexico.

A much smaller population of monarch butterflies lives west of the Rocky Mountains. During summer, western monarchs live in canyons or riparian areas of the West, Southwest, inland California, and the inland Northwest states up to British Columbia. A small number of monarchs can be found in the coastal Pacific Northwest during summer months. Instead of making the long journey to Mexico, western monarchs only migrate as far south as coastal areas of central and southern California.


Life cycle

Individual females lay about 400 eggs and typically lay no more than two eggs on any single milkweed plant. The egg-laying process can last as long as 30 days (Edson 2006). The eggs hatch in 9-12 days, and larva feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed plants. The poisons contained in the milkweed afford the larva some protection from predators. Upon pupation, the new adults (the second generation) continue migration to the north and east. Depending on climatic conditions along the migration routes, the eastern monarchs may have as many as five generations during spring and summer. This multi-generational migration results in the eastern population spreading to all states east of the Rocky Mountains and into southern Canada. In the fall, individuals from the final summer generation migrate south to the wintering grounds in central Mexico, and the annual cycle is repeated the following spring.