The Ancient Dance Of The Lesser Prairie Chicken

In the spring male lesser prairie chickens gather on a booming ground called a lek to display for females.
In the spring, male lesser prairie chickens gather on a booming ground called a lek to display for females. Photographed on April 12, 2011 on a ranch in Harper County, Oklahoma.

The males often square off and fight as part of this ancient mating ritual.  The warm color in this image is due to the early morning light.
The males often square off and fight as part of this ancient mating ritual. The warm color in this image is due to the early morning light.
Only the males have the reddish air sacs on their neck. They inflate the sacs with air which makes various sounds when released including the booming sound which can carry for great distances.
Only the males have the reddish air sacs on their neck. They inflate the sacs with air which makes various sounds when released, including the booming sound which can carry for great distances.
The mating ritual proceeds regardless of weather such as heavy fog the morning of April 8, 2011.
The mating ritual proceeds regardless of weather, such as heavy fog the morning of April 8, 2011.
When not inflated, the air sacs are barely visible or not visible at all.
When not inflated, the air sacs are barely visible or not visible at all.
The hen chooses a male with which to mate from those performing for her attention.
The hen chooses a male with which to mate from those performing for her attention.
The males perform a dance by stomping their feet rapidly and rotating in a circle.  It is believed that the Plains Indians imitation of these movements was the origin of some of their dances.
The males perform a dance by stomping their feet rapidly and rotating in a circle. It is believed that the Plains Indians' imitation of these movements was the origin of some of their dances.

Unfortunately,  the population of these interesting birds has been declining for a number of years and they are nearing endangered status.  Due to their habitat requirements, they only inhabit a relatively small area comprised of northwest Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, southeast Colorado, northeast New Mexico, and the northeast Texas Panhandle.  They need large areas of shortgrass prairie where there are no tall trees or tall structures which they perceive as perching places for raptors, their primary natural predators. Their habitat has become fragmented by the tilling of rangeland for farming and it is believed that the recent construction of wind farms and transmission lines also plays a role in this habitat loss.

If you wish to see more lesser prairie chicken photos, please scroll to the bottom of this page and click on “older entries.”

All images on this site are © copyrighted by Larry D. Brown and may not be reproduced in any manner without permission.

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