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May 21, 2018

The Return of Bird of the Week: Greater Sage Grouse

Greater Sage Grouse Male on Lek, Snake River Plain, Idaho

The Greater Sage Grouse is an iconic species of the Western United States. It’s also near-threatened. Preserving its habitat is one of the hot button issues of conservation in the United States. This is North America’s biggest grouse, with the males sometimes weighing more than six pounds. Thy are famous for their lekking behavior: the males assemble in a relatively small area to engage in a complex display and compete for the attention and breeding privileges. Mostly the females show a studied indifference to the males’ conduct. Greater Sage Grouse are sagebrush obligates, meaning they depend on relatively undisturbed sagebrush…

Bird of the Week – Yellow-billed Loon

Yellow-billed Loon, Fairbanks

The Yellow-billed Loon is the largest loon, and likely the rarest in Alaska. This species’ bill is big, much larger than its cousin’s, the Common Loon. The bill isn’t always yellow; as shown here is is sometime more an ivory color. The Yellow-billed breeds on the Arctic Coast and on the north shores of the Seward Peninsula. It winters off the coast of Alaska, sometimes in large rafts of hundreds or even thousands of birds. In winter plumage, it can be very difficult to tell Yellow-billed Loons from Common Loons. The bill is your best guide, but at a distance…