It can be difficult for birders to get a good look at the greater sage-grouse, but every spring, these game birds gather in courtship leks to display their prowess and attract mates. Birders in Utah County are especially fortunate that a well-established, easily viewable lek is available in Henefer, providing exceptional opportunities to see this amazing “dancing” behavior and an easy way to add these elusive birds to a life list.
Getting to the Lek
It takes approximately 60-90 minutes to drive to the Henefer lek, depending on the exact starting location within Utah County as well as road conditions. To get to the lek…
- Drive east through Provo Canyon toward Heber City, then continue north to I-80 (Alternatively, take I-15 north to I-80 from northern Utah County)
- Go east/north on I-80 toward Cheyenne until reaching the I-84 interchange; then stay on I-84
- Take Exit 115 onto UT 65 (Main Street in Henefer)
- Follow Main Street to East Canyon Road, turning left toward East Canyon Reservoir
- Travel approximately 5.7 miles to reach the lek; a wide pull off is on the right near a historical marker, and a round corral is on the left
The observation point of the lek is located just south of the Morgan/Summit County line. A wire fence with small, white rectangular reflectors (used to help birds better see the fence and avoid collisions) marks the location, and the greater sage-grouse are typically spotted alongside the fence in the range of those reflectors.
Tips for Visiting the Lek
The sage-grouse are most active just at sunrise from late March through very early May. Visitors to the lek should time their arrival to be in position shortly before sunrise so as not to spook birds as they dance. To make the most of a visit…
- Stay in your vehicle to use it as a blind and keep the birds at ease, but feel free to open windows for unobstructed views.
- Use a spotting scope (without a tripod) or birding binoculars to better see the grouse – they may be several dozen yards away from the fence.
- Keep vehicle lights and radios off so there is as little disturbance as possibly. Similarly, do not maneuver the vehicle for a better view, but stay put and keep the birds comfortable.
- When positioned for a good view, turn the vehicle off and crack or open windows to be able to hear the “popping” sounds that are an integral part of these birds’ courtship as they inflate their air sacs.
While greater sage-grouse are the target birds for visiting the lek, other birds often make appearances in the same areas. A variety of sparrows as well as western meadowlarks are common, and large raptors, including red-tailed hawks and golden eagles, often fly over the lek. When raptors do appear, the sage-grouse will often retreat and are unlikely to return to the lek that day.
Visiting the Henefer lek can be a wonderful spring birding excursion and a great way to see amazing game birds that birders travel from around the world to experience.