Similar to the Greater Prairie-Chicken, male Sharp-tailed Grouse gather on dancing grounds known as leks in April and May where they display communally in an effort to attract a mate. The males try to impress nearby females by raising their pointed tails skyward, and stomping their feet rapidly, all while amplifying cooing sounds using the inflated purple air sacs on their necks. The leks are typically located on broad, open hilltops of short grass, and start just before sunrise and may continue for several hours. The Sandhills Ecoregion is a great area for viewing the grouse.
Where to view
There is nothing quite like watching up-close from a blind the synchronized dance-rest-dance of the Sharp-tailed Grouse display. There are several free blinds available in Nebraska starting in March and going to May.
Bessey Ranger District, Nebraska National Forest, near Halsey and Thedford, NE
- Two blinds available, first come, first served. Learn more.
Crescent Lake NWR, Ellsworth, NE
- One blind available, reservations required at (308) 762-4893. Learn more.
Oglala National Grassland, Nebraska National Forest, near Crawford, NE
- One blind available starting April 1. Reservations required for Friday to Sunday, or first-come, first-served for Monday to Thursday. (308) 432-0300.
Niobrara State Park, Niobrara, NE
- A new viewing blind will be available March 15 – April 15. The blind holds up to 12 guests. To reserve your spot call: (402) 857-3373.
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, Valentine, NE
- A blind is available April 1, reservations required. Call (402) 376-3789 or click here to learn more.
Viewing tips & etiquette
- Visitors should arrive to the blind at least 45 minutes before sunrise to reduce lek disturbances. Please be aware that the grouse may not display if folks are late to the blind; late-comers will scare the birds away and they may disperse for extended periods of time. If possible, visit the blind the afternoon before so it will be easier to find your way in the dark.
- Viewing typically lasts two to three hours. While observing the lek, stay quiet and reduce any quick movements. Please do not leave the blind until all the birds have left the display grounds for the day.
- Visitors are recommended to bring warm clothing, a comfortable seat, binoculars, camera, snacks, a flashlight, an area map, and a viewing blind map. Also, please pack out what you pack in, don’t leave anything for the next visitors.