Tag Archives: Prairie Grouse

Prairie Dancers

 

Male lesser prairie-chickens, members of the grouse family, perform a unique mating dance each spring. They gather in groups year after year on the same spots called leks, to attract hens by stomping their feet rapidly and inflating and deflating air sacs on the sides of their necks. This produces a sound called booming which can carry for a considerable distance on the open prairie and accounts for the alternate name, “booming ground” for the lek.

These images made on April 30, 2013, shortly after sunrise.
These images were made on April 30, 2013, shortly after sunrise.
The lesser prairie chicken is slightly smaller than the greater prairie chicken and has red air sacs instead of orange as on the greater.
The lesser prairie-chicken is slightly smaller than the greater prairie-chicken and has reddish air sacs instead of orange as on the greater.
The pinnate feathers are held erect when the air sacs are fully inflated.
The “horn” feathers are held erect and the air sacs are fully inflated.
Pairs of males often face each other with skirmishes often resulting.
Pairs of males often face each other with skirmishes sometimes resulting.
One of the opposing males will often jump up and descend on the other with claws extended.
One of the opposing males will often jump up and descend on the other with claws extended.
The lesser prairie chicken inhabits short-grass prairie areas in only five states.
The lesser prairie-chicken inhabits short-grass prairie areas of only five states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
A clump of sage-brush is used to get a better view of other males and be more visible to any hens in the area.
A clump of sage-brush is used to get a better view of other males and be more visible to any hens in the area.
All of the males courtship displays were in vain this day as most if not all of the hens in the area are already on their nests incubating eggs.
All of the males’ courtship displays were in vain this day as most, if not all of the hens in the area are already on their nests incubating eggs.
Lesser prairie chicken populations have declined to precariously low numbers and they are now being considered for listing as threatened or endangered.
Lesser prairie-chicken populations have declined to precariously low numbers and they are now being considered for listing as threatened or endangered.
These photos were made on a lek near Glazier, in the Texas panhandle.
These photos were made on a lek near Glazier, in the Texas panhandle.
Many thanks go to Dick Wilberforce for making these images possible by providing access to this lek.
Many thanks go to Dick Wilberforce for making these images possible by providing access to this lek.

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

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.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken

The lesser prairie chicken is on the verge or being placed on the endangered species list. This member of the grouse family has always had a limited range and that range is becoming more limited due to fragmentation of habitat made worse recently by the establishment of large wind farms in northwest Oklahoma. I have photographed them the last two springs during their booming season which is the time when males gather on breeding grounds called leks to do an amazing courtship ritual to impress the hens. These were photographed from a blind on a lek in Harper County, Oklahoma.
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