Sharp-tailed grouse is a chicken-like bird that inhabits grasslands, brushy prairies and edges of woodlands. The species ranges from eastern Quebec to central BC and into the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
Male grouse engage in a colorful mating dance known as lekking. A lek is a dancing ground in open areas where the males gather in the spring to defend their territories and court females. Lekking displays typically occur from March to July, with the peak period in April and May. Lekking also occurs less frequently in the fall.
The males spread their wings and circle each other, inflating yellow combs over their eyes.
The elaborate ritual includes squatting with out-stretched wings, pointing tails in the air, and circling one another.
They stomp their feet rapidly, utter booming noises and leap at each other with wings spread.
Dominant males hold the centre of the lek, while less dominant males and juveniles are generally found around the edges.
During the spring breeding season, females visit the lek to find a mate, usually selecting dominant males from the centre. Once mating is completed, females leave the lek to find an area with denser vegetation to build a nest. They raise their young by themselves. If a female’s first nest fails, she may visit the lek to mate a second time.
Text and images by Lydia Dotto, a Peterborough-based science and nature photographer and writer. Capturing wildlife images is Lydia’s passion and her greatest photographic challenge.