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Grunts And Gurgles Signal Love For Grouse

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Grunts And Gurgles Signal Love For Grouse

Grunts And Gurgles Signal Love For Grouse

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/112186144/113333360" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now we have the latest installment of our Wild Sounds series. Once a year, flocks of prairie chickens and grouse gather in the western states to strut and sing for a female mate. We're going to hear this wildlife opera, recorded by biologist Gerrit Vyn from Cornell University.

Mr. GERRIT VYN (Wildlife Biologist, Cornell University): About an hour before sunrise, you crawl into a wooden box with, you know, peepholes - wondering what the heck am I doing here? And then all of the sudden, the birds will appear and start displaying.

(Soundbite of birds)

Mr. VYN: So, what you have there is a group of males in full display. You hear the deep cooing sound of the greater prairie chickens inflating these air sacks in their necks. These brown and white chicken-like birds are shuffling forward. They'll pause in their steps, lunge their head forward, erect these feathers on their neck and reveal these big orange air sacks.

(Soundbite of birds)

Mr. VYN: The interaction between the males is really fascinating. They're constantly patrolling the perimeter of, you know, these territories they have on the lek. And they're getting into these really brutal fights where they'll fly at each other and somersault.

(Soundbite of birds)

Mr. VYN: These sounds are being made by the greater sage grouse. And they fan out this beautiful tail, these long pointy feathers. And as they display, they start swishing their wings over these stiff white breast feathers. And then they sort of, in this violent eruption, launch their chest forward.

(Soundbite of birds)

Mr. VYN: Sharp-tailed grouse, in their display, arc their wings outward and hunch their head forward, and then they run around sort of like wind-up toys pounding their feet on the ground.

(Soundbite of birds)

Mr. VYN: All of these species have undergone drastic population declines. You really do get that feeling when you're out there, like you're experiencing our country as it was.

(Soundbite of birds)

MONTAGNE: Our sounds come from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Thanks to NPR's Christopher Joyce for finding these recordings. And to see the birds in action, visit our Web site at NPR.org.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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