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Sharp-tailed Grouse

Sharp-tailed grouse are often incorrectly called members of the quail family (they're no relation to Dan Quayle) or the partridge family (they're not related to David Cassidy, either). They're members of the grouse family, plain and simple.

Sharp-tailed Grouse
Tympanuchus phasianellus hueyi

Sharp-tailed grouse are one of Montana most common upland game bird species, inhabiting the prairies and grasslands throughout the state. They have dull feathers, and are about the size of a large chicken. They have short, pointed tails (hence the name "sharp-tailed grouse") and are known for a distinctive "tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk" sound when they take flight. Be wary when you're on the lookout for them, because they'll most likely surprise you; they will stay hidden as long as possible before bursting out from right under your feet and flying away.

About 90% of a sharp-tailed grouse's diet consists of wild berries and nuts; the remaining 10% is insects. In autumn, they may venture into grain fields for seeds. They nest on the ground wherever there is adequate cover, keeping their nests well-hidden. During mating season, the males court hens with displays on traditional dancing grounds called "leks". The eggs produced are usually a buff or tan color with brown dots. Young chicks leave the nest almost as soon as they hatch.