During mating season, the greater sage-grouse gather in “leks” where the males perform an extraordinary strutting ritual. Standing in the brush, they spread out their long, spiky tail feathers and puff out their chests to reveal strange yellow air sacks. “I’m here, I’m here, pick me,” they seem to be saying to the females, though it sounds more like “swish-swish-coo-oopoink.” The sage grouse are iconic in a series of western states, and now the subject of one of the largest federal conservation efforts in history. From this September, millions of acres of mating grounds are set to be protected under plans drawn up by the U.S. Interior Department and a host of state agencies.
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