Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sage Grouse Lek

Great morning.  I got to the sage grouse lek at 5:15 this morning and 10 minutes later the grouse started arriving.  First the males with their flowing white collars and then while it was still dark the cackling hens arrived.  The hens that were ready to be bred arrived first.  I did get four poor pictures with the aid of my flash to get some breeding pictures.  Here is one of them.  This cock bred six of the seven hens I witnessed being bred.   Data says that 10 per cent of the cocks do 90% of the breeding.
 

As it got lighter,  I started getting pictures of the displaying males around me.  Here is a non-breeder just east of me as the sun rose, the sun lighting up his fanned tail feathers.



The dominant cock of the lek was surrounded by 11 hens after the sun came up.  Here he is with three of them.  None of them squatted and spread her wings indicating a willingness to be bred.



I thought this hen would eventually welcome his advances while the sun was shining, but it would not happen.  All of his displaying was wasted.



After all the hens wandered off into the sagebrush, the dominant male displayed for 30 minutes trying to entice them back to the lek.  Here is a series of his display.  First he sucks in a big breath of air.



Then he puffs out his chest air sacks a little.



He then rubs his wings on his chest making a squeaking sound as he takes in a huge breath of air.  Notice his mouth is wide open and he has extended his body and legs to allow the greatest intake of air.  From the side view, he would be leaning backward.



Next he brings his head down, burying it in his white collar, forcing all the air into his air sacks, pushing them out and making a loud "plopping" sound.



With the air sacks being stretched to the limit, they show wrinkles as the air escapes.



With 30 to 40 males displaying on one lek, it can be very intertaining and a wonderful way to spend a few hours watching another wild day in Idaho dawn.  I was back home by 8:15 in time to do yard work.

Sorry this was so long - could have been longer, but this will suffice.

29 comments:

Idaho Birder said...

Awesome! I plan to head out to some grouse leks on Monday. It's been a couple of years since I've been able to enjoy them.

Leenie said...

Great photos. Thanks for the info on those amazing birds. I feel a little sorry for the poor guys who strut and show off so fine and get no respect from the ladies.

To see some remarkable bluebird shots by Laura in Wisconsin.

http://movingtowisconsin.blogspot.com/

Tulsa Gentleman said...

Your bird photos are simply amazing. How do you get so close? Is there a blind? You can post as many photos like this as you want.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Bill: What wonderful captures of the male grouse, he is a neat species and his genes should be past on. That rule reminds me of 15% of the fishermen catch 85% of the fish.

Gaelyn said...

Bill, this was an awesome series to capture these grouse. The display is quite showy, just can't understand why all those females weren't flocking in willing and ready. ;-) Thanks for getting up and out so early to see this and share.

Carolyn said...

These are such a beautiful series of photos and I learned some very interesting facts. Thanks for sharing and stopping by my blog.
Have a great week.
Smiles

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Do you have a 'blind' Bill--or do they just ignore you??? OR --are you just far enough away????

Fabulous pictures of the Sage Grouse... That male is a beauty and he knows it. Hopefully he found a woman who'd pay him such much-needed attention... ha

Thanks for a great set of pictures.
Betsy

Leenie said...

Laura from Wisconsin also has some remarkable photos of prairie chickens that must be relatives of sage grouse here--

http://movingtowisconsin.blogspot.com/2010/04/booming-prairie-chickens.html

Bob Bushell said...

He is a magnetic image Bill.

Johnny Nutcase said...

wow! these are pretty much perfect! that early morning light is gorgeous with these pictures. So cool!

The Early Birder said...

Thanks for showing this entertainment Bill...something I've never seen. FAB.

Shirleyanne said...

Brilliant post Bill.
Never seen this & I wasn't even aware of this grouse. Although, I'm quite an amateur with bird/fowl species. Amazes me how the Male in the birding world is alsways more spectacular than the female. Excellent!!!

Bill said...

Outstanding pictures!

CTG Ponies said...

Wow, those are some amazing birds!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Oh My Gosh Bill, you got them... what splendid photographs, each one is an outstanding marker for what they do when we cannot view them. These are marvelous, and I am so jealous, yet so very glad that you got there and so early too. Great series!!!

Barefoot from Heaven said...

Wow Bill it's amazing. Thanks for getting out of the feathers so early in the morning (it's an expression we use, don't know if you have it eigther) to deliver us these gorious pics.
Have a happy day.
Dagmar

NatureFootstep said...

what a great serie of photos and text to them. A great post of a stunning bird.

Sunny said...

Amazing pictures of an amazing bird.
Sunny :)

Kcalpesh said...

Wow, this is the first time ever I've seen this kind of a bird! Thanks for sharing!

Pixellicious Photos

troutbirder said...

Great pics Bill. Now is there any connection to the well documented fact that 10% of the troutfishermen catch 90% of the fish?

holdingmoments said...

Amazing sequence. A great moment to witness.

rebecca said...

What gorgeous photos! I saw Sage Grouse all the time when I was working in Saskatchewan but wasn't fortunate enough to see them lekking. It's definitely on my list of things to do someday. Thanks for sharing!

Amber Coakley said...

Hi Bill - I am visiting from IATB. What a wonderful series of photos! I agree with Johnny Nutcase - that sunshine backlighting is beautiful. I have seen photos and videos of the sage grouse, but can honestly say that these are the best photos I have seen. The males are just splendid - I especially like the black feathers around their head, which stick up and shroud their faces when they duck into their white collars.

No-one else has mentioned this, so I am wondering if I am the only who had this thought...don't those air sacs look like two big 'ol boobs when he puffs them out? I'm just sayin'...
:-)

me ann my camera said...

These pictures are so amazing! How I would love to actually see such a happening. thank you for poating these. Ann

outwalkingthedog said...

Just fantastic. Thanks so much. Your photos & descriptions are fantastic.

Kathiesbirds said...

What a way to begin a day! I have only seen this sight once in Utah myself. It was well worth getting up very early to see. I had to drive about an hour to get there though!

DaveABirding said...

Great behavior series Bill. Thanks for sharing these shots. I bet memories of the lek make yardwork a breeze.

gunnarengblom said...

Great shots. Had the fortune to see the dislay of the Sage Grouse in Colorado a couple of years ago.

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