Sharp-tailed Grouse or Fire Bird
To the Lakota, the sharp-tailed grouse was called “Cansiyo” or the “Fire Bird”, because of its need for fire to keep the grasslands open.
This iconic bird of the northern Great Plains was reported by Theodore Roosevelt as “the most plentiful feathered game to be found” in the region. Thus, it is not surprising then that the sharptail has such a prominent place on the logos of both the North Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Society and North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
But, why is this bird so successful at making its home here in North Dakota? Well the sharptail is built, in both mind and body, to live year round on the North Dakota prairie.
During the fall, winter and spring it happily feeds on cottonwood buds and fruits of snowberry and buffalo berry. This bird comfortably burrowed into the snow during cold winter nights. The sharptail’s body is also designed for a life the northern Great Plains.
Unlike the pheasant, sharptail have feathered legs for additional warmth. Moreover, during the summer the spotted pattern of its feathers blend perfectly with native prairie vegetation. So, the next time you flush a sharp-tailed grouse at your feet in a patch of native prairie you should not be surprised; that bird was supposed to be there.