Comments: Most information is based on studies of the greater sage-grouse but likely applies to a large degree to Gunnison sage-grouse as well.
Sage-grouse use a variety of habitats throughout the year, but the primary component necessary is sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), especially big sagebrush (A. tridentata) (Braun 1995). Sagebrush is used for hiding and thermal cover as well as for food in the winter (Hupp and Braun 1989).
Leks, used for male displays from mid-March to early June, consist of open areas with good visibility (for predator detection) and acoustics (for transmission of male display sounds).
Female nesting sites typically are in relatively tall and dense stands of sagebrush, about 0.2-8.0 kilometers from the leks. Nest sites also have grass and forbs that provide additional hiding cover. Females with young remain in sagebrush uplands if hiding cover is adequate and if food (succulent forbs and insects) is available. As chicks mature and vegetation in the uplands desiccates, females move their broods to wet meadow areas that retain succulent forbs and insects through the summer (Klebenow 1969, Wallestad 1971). Preferred wet meadow areas also contain tall grasses for hiding and sagebrush stands at least 150 meters wide (Dunn and Braun 1986) along the periphery for hiding and foraging.
From mid-September into November all individuals use upland areas with 20 percent or greater sagebrush cover and some green forbs. As winter progresses and snow cover is extensive (> 80 percent) and deep (> than 30 centimeters), individuals forage in tall sagebrush (> 41 centimeters) in valleys and lower flat areas (Hupp and Braun 1989) and roost in shorter sagebrush along ridge tops. Roosting and foraging is typically restricted to south- or west- facing slopes where snow is typically shallower and less extensive (Hupp and Braun 1989). Small foraging areas that have 30-40 percent big sagebrush canopy cover also are important.