Female social behaviour on leks has become an important component of sexual selection hypotheses which attempt to address the lekking phenomena. However, most data on female social behaviours on grouse leks have been ad libitum observations or anecdotal reports. This is in direct contrast to studies on male mating behaviours and studies such as foraging, migration, and habitat use which generally investigate both sexes. Quantified data are presented on three aspects of female behaviour: 1) female sage grouse Centrocercus urophasianus give context specific vocalizations on the lek; 2) females are temporally synchronized in daily and seasonal lek attendance; 3) females form tight spatial aggregations during lek visits. These data suggest that female interactions are as socially complex as are male interactions on leks. Understanding the role of sexual selection in the evolution of lek mating systems requires comparable study of both sexes during their mating season. Furthermore, management and conservation of grouse species can only be enhanced by a more complete understanding of lek social dynamics in both sexes.
Key words: Centrocercus urophasianus, female social behaviour, lek mating, sage grouse, sexual selection
Laura A. Higgins, Department of Zoology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, USA
Jennifer A. Hill & Richard D. Howard, Department of Biology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA
Jessica R. Young, Department of Biology, Western State College, Gunnison, Colorado 81231, USA