Okay, let’s look at what male sage grouse need to do to impress female sage grouse. The first thing you see is their really impressive plumage, that white pendulous bit around their neck and spiky tail. And they’ve got that high contrast black above and below, the little hair-like things in the back are filoplumes sticking up. They’re pretty cool looking but it’s what they do with all that kit that’s so amazing. Yeah the display is– it goes really fast– but it’s three heaves of that big throat pouch–one two–three– You know to really see it we have to slow it down. Now here come these swishes, first swish, second heave more swishes and third. Rewind and play over again. On the sides of the pouch, you can really see the stiff feathers. Those things are like the teeth of a comb and they rub them across the edge of the wing and make their “swish” sound with them. And then that last heave, the wings are a little out to the side and they pull their heads down into the air sac. You can really see it better from the side. Alright, here we go… swish swish Kaboo.. I actually think… Okay, let’s back up a little bit and hold that one frame. Yep, see how his head is pulled in–right there you don’t even see it– it disappears into the bottom and the air sacs bulge all the way out and it creates this “pop whistle pop” sound. So a sage grouse call is sorta “swish whistle swish ka kuw”. All of that popping and whistling is actually sounds radiating through those air sacs. Okay let’s go back to real speed. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the whole package is really directional both visually and acoustically. These guys actually sound better from the side “swish, swish, you, pop. pop” Thuddy from the front and sharp from the side You can see the female get a particular perspective on that male. He has to keep her in a particular place so she sees him the best and can assess him the best so it’s kind of a dance. He’s gonna turn, she’s gonna turn. It’s almost as if he doesn’t he’s not looking right at her but he’s displaying right at her. And he has to read the cues from her really well. If he’s being too aggressive, she’ll just walk away. She gets to listen to hundreds of these displays and just sit there and see how he does over and over again.

End of transcript

Popping their inflatable neck pouches all day is physically demanding. See the bombastic display of the sage-grouse in slow-motion and learn why the show must go on.

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.