The magic of seeing Sharp-tailed Grouse on the Lek!

I was blessed to go to a Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek. The location of the sensitive Lek cannot be shared since they are the endangered subspecies and too much disturbance could cause them to abandon the lek.

All these photos were taken with use of a photo blind so that the grouse could not see me and were not disturbed. You can see from the video how close they walked in front of me which would never be possible if they could see me. They are notoriously impossible to get close to at the best of times.

It is always one of the most thrilling experiences to watch these grouse display. They are one of the most stunning and threatened birds of the prairie. I watched some males squaring off to fight and display for females. The fights can get messy notice the blood on the beak in some of my photos. I was able to see a couple of female and male birds mating on the lek as well.

I slept overnight at the lek because I had to setup my blind the night prior before the grouse arrived. I was up before dawn in freezing temps (you can see the grouse's breath in my video) before they got there and it was all worth it.The first grouse arrived at the lek and began dancing, making sounds and displaying around 4:30am. I stayed put for 7 hours without moving or talking in one spot until the last grouse left the Lek as per ethical Lek viewing protocol. I was REALLY stiff and COLD afterwards but it was all worth it. The last Grouse left the lek around noonish,  shortly after a Goshawk came down and grabbed a Grouse off the lek. They first all freezed for a good 20 mins  without moving after that happened and then slowly began to display but at a much lower intensity. Then they all began to leave the Lek one by one.

Here is a video I made of the Sharp-tailed Grouse on the Lek.

I love the noises they make, how quick the males shuffle their feet and their erect sharp pointed tails. Their bright yellow eyebrows and purple air sacs make them beyond striking.

Lekking Sharp-tailed Grouse  - Photos: Melissa Hafting


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