Fun Fact Friday: To Migrate Or To Staycation

greater-sage-grouse-among-sagebrush-seeds-at-seedskadee-nwr-photo-by-tom-koerner-usfwsDecember 2, 2016

A greater sage-grouse wander among sagebrush seeds at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Tom Koerner, USFWS.

Sagebrush is a great winter home for sage grouse and other birds

By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Bureau of Land Management 

This story originally appeared on BLM’s My Public Lands Tumblr Blog

Brrr! It’s getting cold out in northern sagebrush country! With snow beginning to fall, animals are on the move. Like Greater sage-grouse, more than 350 species call this place home, but some only spend part of the year here and others stay year-round.

Many birds head south. Sage thrashers and Brewer’s sparrows fly to the warmer southern United States and Mexico. Swainson’s Hawks left months ago, gathered into kettles of tens of thousands of birds to travel all the way to Argentina for the winter months. Imagine doing a round-trip trek of more than 12,000 miles from South America to northern North America each year like these world travelers do!

You might rough-legged hawks perched on fence posts and other high ground on the sagebrush sea throughout the winter. Photo by Jennifer Bunker, USFWS.

You might rough-legged hawks perched on fence posts and other high ground on the sagebrush sea throughout the winter. Photo by Jennifer Bunker, USFWS.

For some, the sagebrush landscape is their favorite winter resting spot. All summer, rough-legged hawks spent in the Arctic tundra. Their journey south brings some of them to the western sagebrush landscape. You might see them perched on utility ples, transmission lines, fence posts, and other high ground throughout the winter months.

Other birds have found that sagebrush makes a great home year-round. Perhaps the biggest fan of staycations, the Greater sage-grouse lives year-round in the sagebrush ecosystem. It depends on it for food and shelter. All the same, some Greater sage-grouse migrate up to 100 miles between preferred winter and summer sagebrush habitat.

For all these species, sagebrush is a place to call home. While some might just be temporary residents and others full time, year round you’ll find it teeming with life. So, keep your eyes open to observation and watch how of these birds make their home in this special place!

Learn more about the sagebrush ecosystem and its wildlife

The Sage Grouse Initiative, led by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America's western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life.