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In the Red Desert of Wyoming, Erik Molvar takes us up close and personal with a Greater Sage-Grouse mating site, known as a lek. “Anybody who’s ever been to a singles bar will recognize this scene,” Erik says. “The males are puffing out their chests, strutting around, trying to catch the female’s eye.” Listen to hear what their otherworldly “pick-up line” sounds like!
[Hear more stories on Grouse from BirdNote Presents]
Call of the Sage-Grouse
Written by Ashley Ahearn
Ashley Ahearn: This is BirdNote.
Today, we’re at a Greater Sage-Grouse lek, or mating site, in the Red Desert of Wyoming. Erik Molvar is our guide. He's the executive director of Western Watersheds Project.
Erik Molvar: It’s 5:30 in the morning and already the sage-grouse are taking positions on the lek. Anybody who’s ever been to a singles bar will recognize this scene. The males are puffing out their chests, strutting around, trying to catch the female’s eye, and this is what their pickup line sounds like.
[Gorgeous burbling calls in the clear]
And when they inflate their chest sacks, bright yellow sacks of skin can be seen. Looks like eggs frying in a skillet. The females, by contrast, are brown camouflage. They have their pick of the most attractive mates so they don’t have to show off.
[flap of wings]
Now there’s a male making a rush at a lesser competitor.
[flap of wings]
[Weird low clucking]
These two are threatening again. They do come to blows over these little 10x10 patches of territory on the dance floor.
You can hear the coyotes calling to each other. They don’t bother the sage-grouse.
[Burbling calls of sage-grouse]
Ashley Ahearn: You can hear more about the Greater Sage-Grouse and the challenges they face on our new series Grouse. Subscribe to BirdNote Presents in your podcast app, or go to BirdNote.org.
All sounds recorded by Ashley Ahearn
Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote October 2020 Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
ID# GRSG-09-2020-10-20 GRSG-09