Biologist uses robot bird to study sage-grouse mating

A male greater-sage-grouse displays to attract a female on a Wyoming lek. ©Alan Krakauer

Gail Patricelli, a biologist at University of California, Davis, has a unique approach to studying greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) mating. It involves what she calls a “fembot” — a taxidermy female sage-grouse turned robot on wheels. The contraption, which can appear to forage, look alert and turn its head, is surprisingly successful at luring males to mate, she says. “I do my best to try to make it look realistic,” Patricelli told Wired, which wrote about her unusual approach and her unusual study — applying economic models of negotiation to understand sage-grouse mating on the lek.

Read the Wired story here and see a video from Patricelli’s lab of the “fembot” here.