The greater sage-grouse is a chubby bird, with a speckled body and stumpy feet. The male has a bright yellow sac on his chest that inflates like a life jacket, and a spiky tail that fans out when he’s trying to woo a female.
That flashy mating routine has earned hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, but it hasn’t stopped the population of the strange-looking bird from dwindling. The greater-sage grouse is in trouble.
Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by Sept. 30 whether to add the bird to its endangered species list, and it is a decision with billion-dollar consequences. Declaring the bird endangered would virtually shut down huge swaths of land to other uses in the 11 states the bird currently inhabits.