Context. Inter- and intraspecific habitat partitioning is widespread across taxa, yet limited information is available on differences in intraspecific habitat selection by same-sex individuals among differing reproductive states. Understanding habitat selection by conspecifics of different reproductive states may help optimise conservation efforts, particularly for gallinaceous bird species such as greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), which are long-lived but have only moderate reproductive rates.
Aims. We predicted that habitat use differed between grouse under different reproductive states and that reproductive investment decreased survival of adults in summer.
Methods. We compared habitat characteristics used by brood-rearing and broodless female sage-grouse and evaluated the influence of reproductive investment and habitat use on survival of adult females.
Key results. We found that brood-rearing and broodless female sage-grouse partitioned habitat at micro- and macrohabitat scales. Broodless females were more likely to survive the summer.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest reproductive state variability in habitat selection by female sage-grouse. Broodless females were roosting and foraging in concealed habitats with intermediate visual obstruction and annual vegetation productivity, but less food forb availability compared with early and late brood-rearing females. In contrast, brood-rearing females likely selected more herbaceous understoreys to predictably maximise foraging opportunities and promote growth of their chicks, which appeared to mitigate the influence of reproductive costs on summer survival, particularly during the late brood-rearing period.
Implications. Survival of adult females is critical for population persistence of sage-grouse and other long-lived Galliformes, yet conservation efforts generally focus on habitats used during nesting and brood-rearing. Our results suggest that habitat partitioning is a potential risk-aversion strategy where individuals across different reproductive states likely select habitats to maximise their survival. Conservation efforts should focus on conserving habitats used by both brood-rearing and broodless sage-grouse to ensure population persistence.