Greater sage grouse males do a little song and dance to woo potential mates. Sound familiar?

File photo

Greater sage grouse males do a little song and dance to woo potential mates. Sound familiar?

At Home: In search of sage grouse

Bird watchers cherish North Routt mating ritual



■ Watch the dance at

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— Having trouble wooing a mate on the Ghost Ranch Saloon dance floor? Take a cue from the greater sage grouse.

Once a huge part of Northwest Colorado’s culture (Hayden used to harvest it “by the wagonload” and Craig hosted annual Sage Hen Days in the early 1900s), the bird’s population has declined in Routt and Moffat counties, but its “Hey there, big boy” mating ritual and the allure for birders eager to glimpse its gyrations remain strong.

Two local environmental organizations — The Wilderness Society and Colorado Environ­mental Coalition — lead excursions to watch the chest-puffing mating rituals. Recently found eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the greater sage grouse is the largest game bird in North America other than the turkey. And it certainly has game on the dance floor.

“Every spring, folks come from all over the country to watch the male birds do their strangely intriguing mating dance on the traditional mating grounds, or leks,” says Soren Jespersen, Northwest Colorado Wildlands coordinator for The Wilderness Society. “It’s truly an amazing courtship ritual. Not a single person we’ve taken there has come home disappointed.”

The courtship entails male sage grouse inflating air sacs on their chests while dancing on their ancestral breeding grounds. Hot spots for viewing are on public lands in northern Moffat and Routt counties, but Jespersen adds that if you try to find mating grounds on your own, you’ll need a good tip and plenty of patience. “Seventy percent of Colorado’s remaining population is here, but because of their rarity, the Division of Wildlife doesn’t reveal the exact locations of the leks,” adds Jespersen.

While some grouse ply their trade in North Routt, the best place for viewing is north of Craig, where The Wilderness Society and Colorado Environmental Coalition conduct tours as do grouse-savvy outfitters such as Dean Visintainer, who takes guests to a lek on his private land. Whatever you see, pay attention; emulate its moves and you just may draw a crowd — and possible mate for yourself — at the Free Summer Concert Series.


Fred Duckels 5 years, 10 months ago

If the Pilot is going to display this propaganda with no opposing view, what's next? Maybe the complete works of Karl Marx. Thre Sage Grouse is our Spotted Owl, the perfect political tool to give the left dominion over the folks that toil to provide wealth and security for all. The mission of these left leaning crusaders is to make production as difficult and costly as possible. If we had a !4T surplus we might be able to affford these PC hindrances but we cannot afford any nonsense at the present. In Texas the same do gooders have discovered the sage lizard and are using it to disrupt the oil shale extraction there. Recently the county was denied a gravel pit near Toponas to accomodate the grouse. This gravel reserve is huge and a real treasure but let's make life more difficult. Eugene I think that the readers need to be better informed and you must be more wary of stories that are too good to be true.


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