The Greater Sage Grouse — From Egg to Chick

The Greater Sage Grouse is the largest species of grouse in North America, but it is now found only in small areas in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and is likely Canada’s most endangered species of bird with only 138 birds living in the wild.

The grouse’s population has declined about 98 percent over the past 25 to 45 years. The main cause of decline is from human disturbance of Greater Sage Grouse habitat. Oil, gas, and other development in areas where the grouse breed, winter, nest, and raise their young is a leading factor in their population drop.

In 2013, the Canadian government issued an emergency protection order under the federal Species at Risk Act to try to prevent the birds’ extinction. A 10-year captive breeding program, which will cost $5.3 million, was started at the Calgary Zoo this spring. 

This past May, zoo biologists collected 13 eggs from nests in southeastern Alberta and placed in an incubator at the Calgary Zoo. All of the eggs hatched, but two chicks didn’t survive. When the chicks reached 10 days old, they were moved to the zoo’s Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre to be raised.

Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, head of conservation and research at the Calgary Zoo, said,

We are extremely pleased to have developed a process with the Alberta Government of safely finding, moving, and hatching sage grouse eggs that have been collected in the wild. We are demonstrating immediate action to respond to the species’ imminent risk of extinction in Canada. This is the first step towards founding a captive population that can serve to recover the species in the future.

This project is only one piece of the puzzle in solving the population decline of the Greater Sage Grouse. More has to be done about preserving the ever shrinking native praire in southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan. Oil, gas, and other economic development has taken such a large toll on the small and fragile population.

Hopefully this breeding program will succeed for the next nine years and help increase the population of the grouse. If this reintroduction program works, I would love to drive down to the Manyberries area in southern Alberta and observe the male grouse dancing on their leks, It would be such a sight to see.

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June on the Farm

It’s been a while since I’ve posted photos of our farm animals, so here are a few scenes of spring from the farm this year. I hope you’ll enjoy my photos, it’s so much fun to have so much new life around our farm!

In May, I collected eggs from some of our hens and put them in our incubator, the chicks hatched last week. The chicks are a bunch of crosses as the four roosters I had in with the hens are a White Cochin, Ameraucana, Brown Silkie and a Buff Orpington x Red Rock Cross (I hatched this rooster out last year). Six of the hens are ISA Browns and one is a Buff Orpington x Red Rock Cross (I hatched this hen out last year too). The chicks are very cute and I can’t wait to see what they’ll look like with all their feathers.

The father of the chick is the Ameraucana, but I’m not sure of the mother,

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I’m not sure of the breed of the chick on the left, but the father of the chick on the right is the White Cochin,

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This one’s a Slikie cross,

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This year is the first year we’ve had lambs born on our farm — it’s been very exciting to have 11 lambs bouncing around our yard! The lambs are a Southdown cross and Southdowns are also known as Babydoll sheep,

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There’s almost nothing cuter than a lamb sleeping,

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A couple of our Shorthorn cross calves born in May,

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Mother and baby,

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Checking the Tree Swallow Boxes

Yesterday afternoon I checked our 10 Tree Swallow boxes. The most eggs I found in one box were eight, and the most chicks I found were eight!

Five chicks and two eggs,

Dive-bomb by a protective parent,

Eight chicks,