Every Spring in Wyoming a unique occurrence takes place in the vastness of the sagebrush sea. Greater sage-grouse congregate on their ancestral mating grounds, called a lek, and partake it in a centuries-long mating ritual.
Cornell Lab says it best: "Each spring, at dawn, the sagebrush country of western North America fills with a strange burbling sound and an even stranger sight. Dozens of male Greater Sage-Grouse puff their chests and fan their starburst tails like avant-garde turkeys. They inflate bulbous yellow air sacs and thrust with their heads to produce weird pops and whistles. The rest of the year these birds melt away into the great sagebrush plains that are their only home. Habitat fragmentation and development have caused severe declines for this spectacular bird."
"It is an experience I've never had before...to experience [this] in life is pretty amazing. It makes you appreciate the beauty and grace of these birds."
CZ USA Firearms
It's because of these birds that Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF) invited us and Bobby Holik from CZ USA Firearms out to the Speedway Lek in Southwest Wyoming. Not only does visiting an active lek give you firsthand experience, but it also gives you an appreciation for the importance of maintaining sage-grouse habitat.
Dwayne Meadows, Executive Director of WWF, expresses the importance of viewing leks because not only does Wyoming have some of the most intact sagebrush landscapes in the world, Wyoming as a result has the largest population of sage-grouse on the planet. Haley Fitzgerald, Development Director for WWF, goes on to explain that it gives people who care about conservation the opportunity to have a more intimate relationship with the species.
"Wyoming has spent a lot of time to help manage, maintain, and enhance [sage-grouse] habitat."
Field Director, WWF
If you ever find yourself in Wyoming and are interesting checking out a Greater Sage-grouse lek, be sure to contact the Wyoming Game & Fish Department about viewing opportunities. Their Sage-grouse Lek Viewing Guide provides details about designated public leks, lek viewing ethics, and general guidelines for those who are interested in partaking in the experience. And to learn more about the importance of conserving this species, head over to Wyoming Wildlife Federation's website and follow them on Instagram.