It is springtime in the Rockies and that means it is peak time to catch the sage grouse strutting on their leks. The sparsely vegetated flatland just off Hat 6 road east of Casper is an ancestral lek of the sage grouse. This area is a strutting ground for courtship display from mid-March to mid-May.

Male sage grouse arrive before dawn to establish territories and challenge other males to wing thrashing and feather pulling battles for the right to mate with the females. Most spectacular, however, is the courtship itself. Cooing and strutting with tail feathers fanned, the male sage grouse will attempt to impress the females by expanding and emptying air sacs on its white breast feathers. The strutting may last several hours until the females choose a mate. The dominant male will then breed with as many females as possible while the younger, less dominant males continue to display on the fringes of the lek.

Our friend Cat Urbigkit caught this action just yesterday near her home in southwest Wyoming,

Sage grouse nest in the cover of sagebrush and dine year round on its buds and leaves. Their diet of insects and new green plants gives them the energy needed to participate in the courtship dance and laying of eggs in early spring. After hatching in May or June, the young require an abundance of insects, as insects are the only source of high amounts of protein and calcium required for rapid growth. Brisk Wyoming winds blow snow from the top of sagebrush and allow the grouse to feed continuously during winter when other birds are struggling to find food.

Look for movement close to the ground and among the sagebrush plants to detect these birds. Sage grouse are most active at dawn and dusk, often resting during the heat of summer. Visible winter activity is restricted to midday, when the sun’s warmth is greatest.

Here is a map supplied by the Wyoming Game and Fish giving an approximate location of the lek located east of town that is accompanied by the reminder that if you venture out to watch please stay in your vehicle as to not disturb the birds. For additional information on other leks and other viewing opportunities in the Casper area, contact the Casper Game and Fish office at (307)473-3400 or