Male Sharp-tailed Grouse, Tympanuchus phasianellus, form leks before and during the breeding
season. A lek is a mating arena, in which males meet to compete for territory, and display to attract
females. The intensity of these activities is driven by the simple fact that only a few males on a
given lek will win the majority of matings. This leads to continual fighting and extravagant displays
as all strive to outdo each other and win the opportunity to breed.
As grassy habitat gives way to development, suitable terrain in which these and other North
American grouse species can lek becomes more scarce. Sharp-tailed Grouse
populations have declined over much of their range.
Lek densities provide an index to populations of this
remarkable bird, and indirectly reflect changes in habitat
quality. Populations generally respond to habitat
management practices that increase or protect
food sources, as well as nesting and winter
habitats. Programs such as the Conservation
Reserve Program (CRP) can help landowners build
habitat to support this and other grassland species.