In sage-grouse, it’s the males doing all the fancy displaying but the little gray females actually run the show. Alright, let’s look at this guy. He looks great, right? He’s displaying just like the guy behind him and there’s a female. “Hey look at me.” She’s unimpressed but there’s her friend and she’s unimpressed. “Come back here; I’m great.”I mean to us he looks great. Now he’s sorta walking along with them. That might be part of his problem. He may be not taking “no” for an answer– supposed to be a little more casual about it. But he gets to the end of his territory and he’s got to turn around. Hoping more females come by but they’re not impressed either. They are super picky. The females hold the males to a really high standard. The females are going to inspect multiple males like this. They’re gonna walk around through all the territories and really only visit and sit and listen to a few. Alright, let’s take a look at a more successful male. We see this female and think about what she’s thinking. She is trying to discern whether he is “the one.” This male is gonna display to her hundreds of times. She can judge not just his looks, but she can measure how consistent he is. Does he seem to be getting tired? She can hear him from every angle. Can he do it and deal with a fight and come back and keep doing it? Something about the males’ ability to do this, consistently, communicates something about their quality. So generations of biologists have been coming out here and making measurements to see what it is about males that make them “the one.” We measure the things we can measure but females get a whole picture. They’re intergrating across a ton of variables. The males who are successful are the ones who come into the season strong and stay strong through the whole thing. So we know that the females are finding the good males. But how do females know which ones they are, after being out here for only a few days, is really remarkable and we’re still not sure how they do it.

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The discerning Greater-Sage Grouse females visit the lek only to sample male displays and choose a father for this year’s chicks. Discover just how picky they are.

Climb into a blind with biologist Marc Dantzker to get a first hand look at the drama that unfolds each year on a Greater Sage-Grouse lek.