Photo of the Week: Greater Sage-Grouse

8/19/2013 | 0

©2013 Steven Grogger

©2013 Steven Grogger

Our new photo of the week shows two male Greater Sage-Grouse fighting in front of a group of females. Steven Grogger shot the photo at 7 a.m. on April 21 on a lek near Walden, Colorado, and posted it to our U.S. and Canada Gallery.

Steven and his wife crept into a blind before dawn to watch the birds’ mating behaviors. “The first thing we noticed were the males, conspicuous against the snow with their dark tail feathers held in an upright fan and their white ruffs with yellow air sacs,” he says. “Although we could barely hear their calls, we could see their whole body move and their filoplumes bounce as they deflated their air sacs. The more dominant males defend territories in the center of the lek, where the females gather.

“In this photo, two of the dominant males are fighting in front of a group of females. When inexperienced males tried to sneak up to the females, they were simply chased out. Males of similar status, however, faced off and hit each other with their wings, often shuffling sideways in the process and sometimes rattling their tail feathers.

“Hilariously, we witnessed one dominant male that seemed to be so caught up in displaying that he was oblivious to a female’s invitation to mate. Another male noticed and approached but she took off running, and the two males started posturing. Finally, an eagle appeared overhead and the Greater Sage-Grouse all turned their heads and froze for a few seconds before taking flight.”

Steven used a Canon 50D and a 600mm lens on a tripod.

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