We present evidence that the acoustic component of the strut display of male sage grouse Centrocercus urophasianus is highly directional and that the nature of this directionality is unique among measured vertebrates. Where vertebrate acoustic signals have been found to be directional, they are most intense anteriorly and are bilaterally symmetrical. Our results show that sage grouse acoustic radiation (beam) patterns are often asymmetric about the birds' anterior-posterior axis. The beam pattern of the ‘whistle’ note is actually strikingly bilobate with a deep null directly in front of the displaying bird. While the sage grouse display serves to attract potential mates, male sage grouse rarely face females head on when they call. The results of this study suggest that males may reach females with a high-intensity signal despite their preference for an oblique display posture relative to those females. We characterized these patterns using a novel technique that allowed us to map acoustic radiation patterns of unrestrained animals calling in the wild. Using an eight-microphone array, our technique integrates acoustic localization with synchronous pressure-field measurements while controlling for small-scale environmental variation in sound propagation.
- © 1999 by Company of Biologists