Nest Site Characteristics and Factors Affecting Nest Success of Greater Sage-grouse

James L. Rebholz1, W. Douglas Robinson1, *, Michael D. Pope2
1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA and
2 Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE, Salem, OR 97303, USA

© 2009 Rebholz et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA; Tel: 5417379501; Fax: 5417373590; E-mail:


Nesting success of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) influences annual reproductive success and population dynamics. To describe nesting habitat and measure the effects of vegetation characteristics on nesting outcomes, we sampled 87 sage-grouse nests during 2004 and 2005 in the Montana Mountains of northwestern Nevada. Within a 78.5-m2 circular plot surrounding each nest, we quantified sagebrush canopy cover and grass cover. We used Akaike’s Information Criterion to rank competing models describing potential relationships between vegetation characteristics at and surrounding sage-grouse nests and to determine those characteristics associated with nest success. Nest initiation rate was high (90.0%) and apparent nest success was 40.2%. We used a Mayfield estimation to determine a probability of nest success (hatch ≥1 chick) of 36%. Grass cover within a 3-m2 area centered on the nest had a positive effect on nest success (odds ratio: 1.03, 95% CI: 1.005 – 1.059). We also found weak support for a positive effect on nest success of sagebrush cover at the nest (odds ratio: 1.02, 95% CI: 0.993 – 1.043). Our results are similar to previous findings and confirm the importance of sagebrush cover and herbaceous understory for nesting. To manage sagebrush communities for successful nesting by greater sage-grouse, we recommend providing sufficient grass and sagebrush cover.

Keywords: Centrocercus urophasianus, Greater sage-grouse, Nesting habitat, Nest success, Nevada, Radiotelemetry.