Fun Sharp-tailed Grouse Facts For Kids

Sonali Rawat
Feb 13, 2023 By Sonali Rawat
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Discover facts about the sharp-tailed grouse including appearance, distribution, and habitat.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

The sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus), also known as sharp-tail or fire grouse, is a species of bird found in the United States and Canada. They have been named so because of their pointed tails that stand upright.

These birds belong to the Phasianidae family and Tympanuchus genus. Prairie chickens as well as sharp-tailed grouse are from the same genus and native to North America. The plumage of this bird species can either be brown or black with a white chest.

They also have v-shaped olive markings on the breast. They have sharp tail feathers, a slightly pointed yellow crest, and short leg feathers. Male birds have purple air sacs, which are not present in females.

The habitat for the sharp-tailed grouse includes grasslands, prairie, agricultural areas, and lands with dense shrubs for cover. They are versatile birds that can be found in habitats like savannas as well as wetlands.

The prairie sharp-tailed grouse are known to reside in the lek ground during the spring breeding season and dance endlessly to compete for females. Male birds divide the lek into individual territories in fall and winter.

Female sharp-tailed grouse takes care of parental duties like building nests and raising young ones alone. The feeding habits vary in fall or summer but consists of seeds, grains, berries, grass, buds, and flowers from trees.

They can also feed on insects like beetles, crickets, and caterpillars for food mainly in summer. If you enjoy reading about these birds, you can also check out the Gaum rail and blue grosbeak.

Sharp-Tailed Grouse Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a sharp-tailed grouse?

The sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) is a species of prairie grouse native to the United States and Canada. The main habitats for these birds include grasslands, savannah, and areas with dense vegetation cover.

What class of animal does a sharp-tailed grouse belong to?

Sharp-tail grouses belong to the class of birds from the Tympanuchus genus of the Phasianidae family. Their scientific name is Tympanuchus phasianellus.

How many sharp-tailed grouses are there in the world?

The global population of sharp-tailed grouses is estimated to be about 600,000 individuals.

Where does a sharp-tailed grouse live?

The sharp-tailed grouse lives in the forests native to the northern United States and south-western Canada. The range of their habitat can range from Alaska, Matagami, Beaufort Sea to Hudson Bay and Kansas.

The six subspecies of this bird are divided and found all over the continent including states like British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska.

What is a sharp-tailed grouse's habitat?

With a versatile habitat, the sharp-tailed grouse can be found in grasslands, bogs, agricultural lands, forest woodland, and prairies. The sharp-tailed grouse prefers wetlands habitats, areas will tall vegetation or shrubs, and lives there throughout winter.

Other than that, they can also be found in savannahs and steppe prairie habitats during summer or breeding season. The habitat should be rich in trees and shrubs for cover.

Who does a sharp-tailed grouse live with?

The sharp-tailed grouse is a social bird and usually found in small groups of their species. The small, flat area where males gather for courtship is called a lekking ground. Female birds alone take care of the young ones.

How long does a sharp-tailed grouse live?

The average lifespan of a sharp-tailed grouse can be 7.5 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of sharp-tailed grouses begins in March and the peak can range from mid-April to May. Males form a lek in a flat, open ground to compete for females.

In early spring morning, the males form territories or areas in the lek with the fittest and strongest male staying in the center. Thereafter, males dance to show their dominance.

They may take a rest in between and the one that dances the most with the least breaks is considered to be the most desirable. For the dance, the males rapidly tap their feet on the group and move in a circular motion.

The female approaches a male of their choosing and mating finally occurs.

In one season, female birds can lay a range of 10-14 eggs. The nest is made of leaves, moss, grass, feathers and is within the range of 1.2 mi (2 km) of the lek.

The incubation period can be around 21-25 days and the mortality rate may be low due to predators. The nest is usually in a small divot on the ground, under trees or shrubs to minimize predation.

Female birds alone take care of the young ones and lead them to the feeding areas. In 12 weeks, the young chicks become independent and gain sexual maturity in one year.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the North American sharp-tail grouse is Least Concern, which means no immediate danger haunts it. The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse was petitioned to be listed as Near Threatened twice. The main reason for the decrease in the population of sharp-tailed grouse is the loss of habitat, forest fires, and hunting.

Sharp-Tailed Grouse Fun Facts

What does a sharp-tailed grouse look like?

The North American sharp-tailed grouse is large and as the name suggests, has a sharp-pointed tail of feathers that can help straight up. Their features are largely similar to the greater prairie chickens and the lesser prairie chickens.

They have short leg feathers and black to brown feathers on the rounded body. The chest is white with v-shaped olive markings and a slightly pointed yellow crest. Males have purple air sacs which may inflate when they chirp.

Sharp-Tailed Grouse

How cute are they?

The northern sharp-tailed grouse looks a lot like a chicken and has a slightly crested head with a brown body. They can be found either on the ground or perched on trees. While they may not look very cute and slightly ordinary, their dancing method of courtship in the lek is very interesting to observe.

How do they communicate?

Sharp-tailed grouses usually communicate vocally and have a great variety of frequency of calls. They can use sounds like a 'crackle' to express when they are threatened and a 'coo' to welcome other birds.

Females use a distinct call while selecting the male on the lek. The male birds may use another call with other male birds on the lek while establishing other territories. The sharp-tailed grouse also has good eyesight and may use chemical cues like scent to communicate as well.

How big is a sharp-tailed grouse?

The average height of this bird is about 15-19 in (38.1-48.3 cm) and their wingspan is 24.4-25.6 in (62-65 cm). They can be about six times the size of a hummingbird.

How fast can a sharp-tailed grouse move?

The average speed of the sharp-tailed grouse is 42.8 mph (69 kph).

How much does a sharp-tailed grouse weigh?

The average weight of a sharp-tailed grouse is 21-31 oz (596-880 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males are called cocks while females are called hens.

What would you call a baby sharp-tailed grouse?

A young sharp-tailed grouse is called a chick or fledging.

What do they eat?

Sharp-tailed grouses are omnivorous and feed on leaves, buds, flowers, grass, grains, seeds, fruits, nuts as well as different types of insects like ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. The diet can depend on the availability of food in the feeding areas.

During fall and winter, their food includes sunflower, goldenrod, Russian olive, sunflowers, rosehip, and snowberry.

During summer and spring, their food preferences shift to hawkweed, Oregon grape, goatsbeard, yarrow, sagebrush buttercup, fruits, and dandelions. The main predators of the sharp-tailed grouse are great-horned owls, coyotes, American minks, northern harriers, and common ravens.

Are they poisonous?

Sharp-tailed grouses are completely harmless and do not interfere with humans. They can also be eaten and make great game birds. Some people define the taste of this bird as similar to beef if cooked properly.

Would they make a good pet?

Keeping a wild bird as a pet may not be the best idea. The sharp-tailed grouse belongs in the wild and no domestication efforts have been made. They probably would not make good pets and as with other birds, it is only humane to let them fly in the skies instead of living in cages.

Did you know...

Although they do not have any migration patterns, the sharp-tailed grouse may have to migrate during harsh winters. Even so, the distance is not more than 21 mi (34 km).

How do you identify a grouse?

The sharp-tailed grouse can be identified by its sharp, upright tails and yellow crest. The males have purple air sacs as well. They look a lot like a chicken and have a black or brown plumage with a white chest. They have short feathered legs, short bills, and a chubby or round body.

How high can they fly?

The sharp-tailed grouse does not fly very often and if it does, it is only for a short distance. The maximum distance they can fly is just 0.06 mi (100 m). They have long wings with an average speed of  42.8 mph (69 kph).

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our nightingale facts and bowerbird facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Sharp-Tailed Grouse coloring pages.

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Written by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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