Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Malheur Greater Sage Grouse

One of my primary reasons for going with these photographers out to Harney County was the opportunity to see the Greater Sage Grouse on the Lek. This is a rare thing now as these birds are considered endagerd by many and have recently been considered for listing. The Lek near the MNWR is like many way out in the sage brush, and although it has been in the same place for apparently many years, is still hard to find. We set out before dawn in a light snow, and sat for a long time without seeing them. Another carload of photographers came by (see photo below), and after we all moved quietly in the area, we found them.

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A lek is a gathering of males, of certain animal species, for the purposes of competitive mating display. Leks assemble before and during the breeding season, on a daily basis. The same group of males meet at a traditional place and take up the same individual positions on an arena, each occupying and defending a small territory or court. Intermittently or continuously, they spar individually with their neighbors or put on extravagant visual or aural displays (mating "dances" or gymnastics, plumage displays, vocal challenges, etc.).

Lek mating arena, modeled on the sage grouse, in which each male, alpha-male (highest ranking), beta-male, gamma-male, etc., guards a territory of a few meters in size on average, and in which the dominant males may each attract up to eight or more females.[1] In addition, each individual is shown with variations in personal space (bubbles), where by higher-ranking individuals have larger personal space bubbles.[2] Common bird leks typically have 25-30 individuals.

Our lek had about two dozen males and maybe 5 females on it.

It seriously make me wonder how they could get the job done when a female finally chose them. They were expending so much energy displaying, I can't imagine that they weren't worn out.

So here is a bit of video that I shot with the D90. I shot most of the photos with the D3, my 400mm 2.8 and a 1.4 teleconverter. I was shooting out the car window with no tripod, so it is a bit shaky. The grouse were out about 150 feet or so. Pretty fun stuff.

1 comment:

eileeninmd said...

Cool video and photos of the Grouse. The males are looking birds.