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By Becky Gillette
Special to The SUN
Eagles are nesting, woodpeckers are drumming and song sparrows are singing. As far as the birds are concerned, spring is here.
In the Gunnison Basin and other areas of southwestern Colorado, Gunnison dage-grouse will take to their dancing grounds (called “leks”) over the next few months. Male sage-grouse perform elaborate courtship displays that include strutting, wing-flapping, head-bobbing and tail-fanning. A breeding male also has a pair of yellow air sacs on his chest, which are expanded and contracted to create the popping sounds that accompany the display.
Female sage-grouse spend multiple mornings observing the males on the leks, eventually choosing the fittest male with the best dance as their mating partner for the season. Nesting begins shortly thereafter, with six to seven eggs laid in a nest on the ground, most often in the cover of tall, dense stands of sagebrush.
The Gunnison sage-grouse has been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. To learn more, please join the Weminuche Audubon Society for our monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the senior dining room at the Ross Aragon Community Center. The meeting is free and open to the public.
Audubon Rockies Southwest Regional Director Becky Gillette will present “Sage and Sage-grouse: A Thousand-Year Partnership.” We’ll use photos and videos to explore the bird’s fascinating life history and breeding behaviors, and learn about the reasons for their population decline, changes to their disappearing habitat and how you can help preserve one of the West’s most iconic species.