Grazed Rangelands Produce Sage Grouse Chicks’ Preferred Food

Tagged sage grouse chick photo by Kenton Rowe

Tagged sage grouse chick photo by Kenton Rowe

The Sage Grouse Initiative released a new report that shows that well-managed grazing provides more than just better habitat for sage grouse. It also produces more of the bugs that the growing young birds need to eat. 

Montana State University researchers compared insect communities in grazed, rested, and idled pastures and found that the types of insects that provide a critical food source for sage grouse chicks and other shrub- and grassland-dependent birds were 13 percent more prevalent on managed and rested rangelands. Plus, managed rangeland supported a more diverse assemblage of ground-dwelling arthropods, which may be particularly beneficial for birds that rely on this critical food resource.

In the American West’s grazing-adapted ecosystem, long-term absence of grazing or other disturbance dramatically alters the structure of arthropod communities, ultimately resulting in reduced availability of important food resources for shrubland and grassland birds. Livestock grazing that incorporates rest-rotation or other conservation practices may provide a valuable ecosystem service.

Grazed rangelands produced more sage grouse food compared to idled pastures where predatory spiders were most abundant.
— Hayes Goosey, lead researcher, Montana State University