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Sage-Grouse Lek and Grasslands

Springtime on the prairie, and birds are revving up!
© Bob Griffith View Large

At a display area, known as a lek, the male Greater Sage-Grouse perform for mating rights, while the smaller females look on. Today, the Greater Sage-Grouse is seriously endangered, its fate intertwined with the loss of sage habitat. Millions of acres have been converted to cropland, and on millions more, the sage has been removed.

You can learn more about the challenges of the grouse at, and about conservation efforts at

Full Transcript

Sage-Grouse Lek and Grasslands

Written by Bob Sundstrom
Dawn breaks across the sagebrush country of the West on a brisk March morning.
[Sage-Grouse males performing on lek]
Already, fifteen male Greater Sage-Grouse are strutting on their traditional display area, a sparsely vegetated arena amid the sage.
[Sage-Grouse males performing on lek]
As the sun rises, meadowlarks begin to sing.
[Western Meadowlark song]
And we can now see the Sage-Grouse clearly. The enormous males are over two feet long, and weigh six pounds. They stand bolt upright, their long tails fanned like a turkey’s tail, the dark backs and bellies contrasting sharply with their white breasts.
When they display, the Sage-Grouse simultaneously scrape their wings back and forth against their flanks, expel air from twin, fleshy chest-sacs the size of tennis balls, and call softly. The resulting sound combines swishing, popping, and cooing:
[Sounds of Sage-Grouse males performing on lek]
At the display area, known as a lek, the male Sage-Grouse perform for mating rights with the smaller females looking on.
[Sounds of Sage-Grouse males performing on lek]
As lands formerly covered in sage are converted to agriculture, so goes the fate of the magnificent sage-grouse.  In some areas, the grouse have less than ten percent of their historical range. Today's show brought to you by the Lufkin Family Foundation.
[Sounds of Sage-Grouse males performing on lek]
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Display sounds of the Greater Sage-Grouse recorded by G.A. Keller; call of the Western Meadowlark recorded by W.R. Fish
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to  March 2013 Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# orig 030806GRSGKPLU         SotB-GRSG-01b

Sights & Sounds

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