Yesterday morning I got to get up early, early, early on my normal sleep-in Saturday to go out with a couple of the bioligists from work to check on their Sharp Tail Grouse Traps. Apparently the Grouse go to the same spot(called a Lek) every spring and the males perform for the females. The females decide which male is the most desirable, they mate, and the males leave. The rest is up to the female. She makes a nest nearby, lays the eggs and raises the young.
This is a Lek...
Grouse aren't the smartest of birds. The bioligists studying them have set up a zigzag path of wire fences with traps in each corner. As the females wander across the Lek checking out the mornings performances they hit a fence and follow it till they get to a trap. The female scoots in the tunneled door and then can't figure out how to get back out again. The bioligists are collaring the females so they can collect data on nesting and the subsequent chicks. The males that are caught are banded. At the first Lek we stopped at there was only one bird trapped. A male. Already banded. Apparently his 3rd time in the trap. Not the smartest of birds.
Reminds me of the family of Sharptails that frequented our birdfeeders for a few winters. One of them would always land on the wrong side of the fence. He'd (I'm guessing it was a male) would spend breakfast time running back and forth along the fence line watching the rest of the family eating. Not smart enough to fly up and over or run to the end of the fence and around, he packed down a trail in the snow from his frantic running back and forth every day.
Here's me holding the 'not so smart' already banded male...
He's got yellow eyebrows that apparently stand up and fan out during his mating dance. Alicia pointed out his purple throat sac that creates the mating song. We heard the males making their mating calls at the second Lek we checked out. There were no trapped birds, but across the field we could hear them dancing and performing up a storm.
Alicia also showed me his feet, which in winter time have extra tiny 'feathers'(?) that make his feet wider so he can walk on top of the snow easier. Sort of like bird snowshoes.
I'm going to go out with them again Tuesday morning. Hopefully I will get to see more birds and maybe a close up of the males performance.