This is an old webpage carried forward to our new site. Please note that some of the information might be out of date and we probably have newer footage.
Few people outside of the Great Plains even know what a sage grouse is, yet they are one of the iconic species of the plains, especially the sagebrush regions. Every spring, ranchers, small town citizens, and others look forward to their colorful courtship displays. For a few weeks in April the male and female sage grouse come together on sites known as “leks” or dancing grounds. It is there that the males puff out their chests, spread their tail feathers, and make a booming or pumping sound to attract females and tell other males to back off.
Sage grouse are hunted, but only in limited numbers. They are nowhere as dense as other game birds such as pheasants, which makes hunting them much more difficult. Furthermore, they inhabit some of the most remote parts of the Great Plains.
Unfortunately for the sage grouse, it often occupies lands that overlay rich energy deposits. The noise, habitat destruction, and other disruptions associated with energy development in places like Wyoming is one of the reasons there is concern about the birds future. Various subspecies have been proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Filming Sage Grouse Stock Footage
As is the case with their cousins, the sharp-tailed grouse and the prairie chicken, the best time by far to film sage grouse is in the spring when they gather together on their dancing grounds. And like their cousins, if you have a good blind you should get great footage. Even a car will suffice as a blind, but once you get out of it the birds will be gone.
You will generally want the blind positioned so that the sun is to your back; however, backlighting can make for some dramatic shots, especially when the males spread their tail feathers. Audio adds to the dancing ground experience; however, the prairie wind can often play havoc with getting good sound. Try and pick a windy day. If you are out on a windy day use a good “dead cat” or other wind-noise suppressing item over your microphone. If you have a wireless mic you can also make use of that. Simply put it in the dancing ground before the birds show up.
Sage grouse are a species of management concern, and have been proposed for listing as an endangered species, so use good ethics when filming or photographing sage grouse.