Tundra Winds Images by Donna Dannen | The Dance of the Sage Grouse

The Dance of the Sage Grouse

March 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Establishing Breeding RightsEstablishing Breeding RightsGreater sage grouse males squabble as they establish their breeding rights on the NW Colorado lek Spring is a fleeting phenomenon in the Rockies.  We see glimpses of it between snow and windstorms.  I like to concentrate on the migration, mating rituals, nest building, and dominance displays of the birds in our region.  Cranes, and all kinds of bird species are migrating through or into the area.  Sage grouse and prairie chickens are sparring.  Herons are nest building, along with eagles, hawks and owls.  it is a time of action, beauty and rebirth that needs to be coaxed out of spring snow squalls and up-and-down weather systems.  It is an exciting time to be out in nature. . . .though it demands the layer system dress code, and a willingness to meet all conditions head on.

Displaying Greater Sage Grouse Male IDisplaying Greater Sage Grouse Male I le sage grouse have fantastic mating displays showing off their yellow eye combs while strutting with tail feathers fanned.  They deflate and inflate yellow air sacs on their breasts which create a bubbly popping sound as they strut before rather disinterested-looking hens.  Because these birds have decreasing habitat due to cattle grazing, oil production, and military operations on their sagebrush homelands, finding leks and opportunities to observe mating rituals are becoming more and more difficult.  

A warning quote from John James Audubon seems to apply particularly to the sage grouse:  

"A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children."


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