Use and Habitat Characteristics of STGR Leks in Northwest Alberta


Stephanie Grossman and Robb Stavne


In 2004 the Alberta Conservation Association resumed its sharp-tailed grouse (Tymphanucus phasianellus jamesi) lek surveys to monitor historical locations throughout the Peace Region. Leks were surveyed to assess their status (active, non-active) and define habitat characteristics adjacent to both active and non-active leks. These surveys were resumed to locate established lek sites and to begin to develop a plan for future sharp-tailed grouse stewardship agreements with local landowners.

Sixty-six historical leks (locations identified prior to 2000) and 10 new leks (locations identified in 2004) were surveyed with a total of 39 being active in 2004. The average number of birds attending leks in 2004 (11.8 birds/lek) was slightly higher than that between 1996 and 2000 (range in attendance at leks = 8.8 - 10.6 birds).

Comparison of habitat immediately adjacent to leks (i.e. within 0.64 km2) showed that active leks were surrounded by significantly more non-cultivated land (average = 63%, p = 0.04) and shrublands (7%, p = 0.05) than non-active leks (non-cultivated land = 50%; shrublands = 4%). At a landscape scale (i.e. centred within 5.8 km2), active leks were also surrounded by more non-cultivated lands (69%) than non-active leks (54%, p = 0.03). At this scale (5.8 km2), shrubland habitats and all native land cover types were more abundant at active leks (shrublands = 12%, p = 0.00; native land cover = 35%, p = 0.03) than at non-active leks (shrublands = 8%, native land cover = 30%).

Results suggest that shrublands function as important nesting or brooding habitat for sharp-tailed grouse. However, there is currently no information on nest site preferences of sharp-tailed grouse in the Peace Region. We recommend that additional studies be undertaken to: i) quantify nesting habitat requirements, and ii) determine the extent to which differences in landuse influence the distribution and abundance of lek sites and population dynamics. Furthermore, annual monitoring of specific leks and landscapes is recommended to facilitate a greater understanding of population trends over time.

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