[Originally published March 3, 2009.]

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If you’re looking for the most impressive display of plumage in the lek, just hop on by, baby. Because I’m sorry, but I don’t play the plumage game. Likewise, if you’re looking for someone who’s gonna strut around with his air sacs all puffed up like a couple of balloons, then just keep moving, because you’ll find plenty of that behavior among the other males in the sagebrush over yonder.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I could play that game if I wanted, but, really, what’s the point? Is that really what you’re looking for? Do you really want to make such an important decision as mating based on tail feathers?

I could tell right away that you’re not like the other females. Oh, sure, you’re mottled gray-brown and you’ve got that sexy dark belly, but there’s something different about you, something unique. I get the sense that you’re the type of hen who can look past all the flash and pomp and preening displays to see the real cock underneath.

Ask yourself, do you want a mate with the most prominent tail feathers, or do you want one who’s gonna stick by you through thick and thin, one who’s gonna actually help you build a nest once mating is over instead of just flying off to carouse with the boys all winter? Do you want the type of mate who can rustle up some grub and who’s not above sitting on an egg now and again? In short, are you looking for a hookup or are you looking for a mate?

OK, go on, vamoose. Just scurry over to the lek with the rest of ‘em. Excuse me for thinking you were different. But, as you watch those strutting, self-important buffoons, just remember one thing, baby: we’re sage grouse, not peafowl, and maybe it’s time we started acting like it.

Excuse me, sweetheart, but I couldn’t help noticing you glancing in my direction. Now, if you’re looking for the most impressive display of plumage in the lek, then just hop on by …