From The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this is a Greater Sage-Grouse, “our North American Bird of Paradise” who performs an elaborate courtship ritual full of strutting, puffing, and making a sound that’s similar to when someone’s making that whistling water drop noise with their mouth. From All About Birds:

The outlandish male strutting display is a complex, finely timed sequence of sounds, both vocal and mechanical. It begins with two wing swishes, separated by about one second, that are achieved by the male heaving his vocal sacs, enclosed in a neck pouch, through his wings that are held rigidly at his side. The swish sound is produced when the rough feathers on the neck pouch are dragged through his wings, and is only heard when the bird is very close by. Following the wing swishes is a short series of low, clear cooing notes, then two booming pops from in quick succession from the large yellow air sacs. Between the two pops is a whistle, and a few seconds after the display’s conclusion, the head is quickly raised to emit a huffing or snorting sound — thought to be a final release of air.

In the video above, Cornell Lab cinematographer Eric Liner explains the behind-the-scenes work it took to document the sage-grouse’s display. Below, watch a trailer for The Sagebrush Sea, an hour-long film by the Cornell Lab.


Watch the full film at PBS.org/Nature.

On this site: Watch more incredible birds, more brilliant work from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and a related film about animals in North America’s changing landscapes: The massive yearly migration of Mule Deer.

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