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Sharp-tailed Grouse on a Lek

A rare but wondrous display!

During spring at Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, male Sharp-tailed Grouse  - like the one pictured here - perform their elaborate mating dances on a matted patch of ground called a lek. They stomp their feet, extend their wings, and zip around the lek. Then, in an instant, they stop – stock-still. All this to impress the female grouse observing from the sidelines! This wondrous, strange display is rare. Throughout the world, very few species of birds, perhaps fewer than 100, use leks when breeding.  

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Sharp-tailed Grouse on a Lek

Written by Todd Peterson

From a Conversation with Gerrit Vyn 

This is BirdNote!

[Display sounds of male Sharp-tailed Grouse]

It’s before dawn, this April morning, on a North Dakota prairie. Sitting quietly near a rise of ground, we begin to hear eerie whoops and cackling. [display sounds of Sharp-tailed Grouse] And then what sound like little motors running. [‘motor’ sounds made by the rattling of tail feathers while stomping very rapidly] 

At first light, we see the source of this otherworldly chorus: male Sharp-tailed Grouse performing their elaborate mating dances. The size of small chickens, they dance on a matted patch of ground called a lek. Together, they’re stomping their feet, extending their wings, and zipping around the lek. Then, at the same instant, they stop – stock-still. All this to impress the female grouse observing from the sidelines.

  [Mating display sounds of Sharp-tailed Grouse]

This wondrous, strange display is rare. Throughout the world, very few species of birds, perhaps fewer than 100, use leks when breeding.  

With oil and gas drilling and the conversion of grasslands to agriculture, habitat for Sharp-tailed Grouse is becoming scarcer and more fragmented. [brief cooing]

This morning, the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota gives our birds a place to reenact their ancient ritual and begin the cycle of their lives anew. 

[Mating display sounds of Sharp-tailed Grouse]

To see videos, begin at birdnote.org.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Mating display sounds of male Sharp-tailed Grouse [141142] recorded by Gerrit Vyn. 

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org    April 2014   Narrator:  Michael Stein

ID#    STGR-lek-01-2014-04-07 (subject to change) STGR-lek-01

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, http://www.fws.gov/lostwood/lostwoodnwr.htm

Dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UdKiQ8iJXU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvoZkjuYD54

Video in super slow motion of males fighting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHudSNAtR2Q

Sights & Sounds

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