Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus)


French: Tétras à queue fine German: Schweifhuhn Spanish: Gallo de las praderas rabudo

Tetrao Phasianellus


, 1758,

Canada = Hudson Bay


Genetic differentiation among all three species of Tympanuchus is very weak, suggesting either that they evolved in isolation during Pleistocene but subsequent secondary contact and hybridization have obscured molecular differences, or that the ancestral species subdivided much more recently, e.g. during the Wisconsin glaciation, such that ancestral genetic polymorphisms remain identifiable#R. Present species formerly placed in a monotypic genus Pedioecetes. Hybridizes extensively with T. cupido where ranges overlap, with both hybrids and back-crosses apparently fertile; hybrids can constitute 0·3–1·2% of combined population in Nebraska, and 5–25% on Manitoulin I, Ontario, where contact between these species is recent. Known to have hybridized occasionally with Centrocercus urophasianus (suspected or proven hybrids in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming#R). Geographical variation involves basic ground colour, depending to some extent on coloration of soil and amount of rainfall#R. One genetic study of subspecies found evidence for restricted gene flow between E and W parts of the species’ range, corresponding with boundaries of columbianus and jamesi#R. Six extant subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. p. caurus (Friedmann, 1943) – Alaska and SW Canada from S Yukon E to N British Columbia, N Alberta and N Saskatchewan (L Athabasca).
  • T. p. kennicotti (Suckley, 1862) – Northwest Territories from Mackenzie R to Great Slave L.
  • T. p. columbianus (Ord, 1815) – NC British Columbia S to N Utah and W Colorado; formerly W to NE California and (perhaps jamesi) to N New Mexico.
  • T. p. jamesi (Lincoln, 1917) – NC Alberta and C Saskatchewan S in C USA to Wyoming and Nebraska; formerly to Kansas.
  • T. p. phasianellus (Linnaeus, 1758) – EC & SE Canada (N Manitoba, N Ontario and WC Quebec).
  • T. p. campestris (Ridgway, 1884) – EC Saskatchewan, S Manitoba (L Winnipeg) and SW Ontario S in USA to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan; formerly to N Illinois.
  • T. p. hueyi Dickerman & Hubbard, 1994 – SC USA (NE New Mexico).
  • Descriptive notes

    38–48 cm; male 788–1090 g, female 548–999 g (subspecies combined). Pointed tail characteristic, with central pair of rectrices extending far beyond the... read more


    Most vocal at leks, which involve complex series of postures and manoeuvres, mainly involving the... read more


    Wide range of open environments, from grassland and sagebrush semi-desert to relatively dense... read more

    Food and feeding

    Rather adaptable. During winter, if snow conditions enable tree-feeding on buds and catkins, primary plant food changes to paper birch (... read more


    Lays mainly Apr–Jun, but probably into Jul in Canada and generally later in cold, snowy springs and in N of range. Promiscuous; males... read more


    Largely sedentary, with some movements of > 30 km from grassland areas to woody cover in winter... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Still relatively common and widespread in Canada, but range has contracted considerably in S & W: now extinct in eight states of... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 12 December 2019).