The window is fast closing to observe greater sage grouse mating rituals.
The season for the males’ elaborate courting strut runs through March and April, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s website . The agency provides a statewide map of leks — breeding grounds — it recommends the public visit.
The agency limits the number of lek locations it publishes to curtail disturbance to the birds. But the detailed maps provide opportunities for birders across the state.
For those who can’t get out, the website Explore provides a link to a webcam near Bend, Oregon, where one can view grouse strutting remotely. The best time is early morning, but beware of fickle Mother Nature. On Thursday, the camera focused on a hawk perched on a fencepost above the lek. Presumably there were no grouse around.
Because of a generous snowpack across parts of Wyoming this year, some leks may be difficult to access. Game and Fish provides a list of Lek viewing ethics that includes a caution to postpone a visit if roads are muddy.
The agency recommends arriving at leks at least an hour before sunrise, so some scouting the day before may be in order.
Late April is the best time to visit “because most of the breeding is complete but the males are still actively strutting,” Game and Fish says. “The weather is usually better too.”
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge Manager Tom Koerner made this photograph of a greater sage grouse hen in flight. The refuge on the Green River got its name from the Shoshone word “Sisk-a-dee-agie” that means “river of the prairie hen.”