Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a species of concern, and accurate population data are needed to monitor conservation management efforts. Conventional, ground-based lek counts are labor-intensive, expensive, and have several sources of potential error and bias, including the practical limits on number and distribution of leks counted. We tested aerial methods for photographing multiple leks during a single morning. We completed 14 aerial approaches to 6 leks in 2 different years using 2 different airplanes and altitudes. Grouse flushed from leks on 12 approaches when the airplane was within 200–300 m of the lek. In 2 instances, strutting grouse crouched and stayed on the lek. Our highest-resolution images increased our confidence in grouse identification but also decreased field-of-view coverage to the detriment of count accuracy. The methods we tested do not allow sage-grouse to be accurately counted, but the results provide information about sage-grouse responses to low-altitude airplane approaches and about useful image resolutions and fields of view.
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Vol. 69 • No. 3