Date of this Version
The Auk (January 1987) 104: 77-84.
During a 5-year study of sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in eastern California, displaying males abandoned territoriality throughout one breeding season and did so intermittently in three others. Abandonment followed a severe winter and was correlated with a change from location-dependent to hierarchical dominance relationships between males. Intermittent territorial breakdowns occurred when males left their territories to approach and, in 2 years, to mate with females off the lek. These observations imply that the social mechanisms of sexual selection may vary between leks in this species and suggest a novel function for lek territoriality: territories may act as rendezvous sites with females.