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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.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, males facing off

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.

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