Prairie chick­ens fo­cus of view­ing event

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION -

Male prairie chick­ens are showoffs in spring. They do a foot-stomp­ing strut and make a boom­ing sound to im­press fe­males as courtship oc­curs on hill­tops.

The Mis­souri Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion of­fers a chance to view prairie chick­ens on a lek, or boom­ing ground, at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie near El Do­rado Springs in south­west Mis­souri.

There is no cost to at­tend, but space is lim­ited to the first 50 peo­ple who reg­is­ter for each day of view­ing. Par­tic­i­pants will meet at the depart­ment’s of­fice in El Do­rado Springs. A school bus will take ob­servers to a road within sight of the lek. Par­tic­i­pants will be able to take pho­to­graphs and watch the prairie chick­ens from the bus. The bus serves as a blind and min­i­mizes dis­tur­bance of birds on the lek.

The view­ing is sched­uled for early morn­ing be­cause that’s when the birds are most ac­tive on the leks. Depart­ment bi­ol­o­gists will be on hand to an­swer ques­tions about prairie chick­ens and grass­land con­ser­va­tion.

Prairie chick­ens are en­dan­gered in Mis­souri. A small rem­nant flock has sur­vived at the Taberville Prairie Con­ser­va­tion Area north of Wah’KonTah. But the flock at Wah’KonTah Prairie was re­stored with birds brought in from Kansas. Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is owned by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy and man­aged by Mis­souri Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion. The depart­ment also owns some acreage in the area north of El Do­rado Springs.

Be­sides restor­ing prairie chick­ens to the area, bi­ol­o­gists are also study­ing what grass­land habi­tat man­age­ment choices best help prairie chick­ens, na­tive plants and all grass­land species thrive in the up­per Osage grass­lands.

Habi­tat loss led to prairie chicken de­clines. Only tiny parcels of Mis­souri’s once vast prairies re­main. Poor weather dur­ing nest­ing sea­son has hurt re­cov­ery ef­forts in the past decade, although birds in the Wah’Kon-Tah area have held steady in the past few years.

The pub­lic is asked not to ap­proach or dis­turb prairie chick­ens on leks at wildlife ar­eas. Please do not leave road­ways to photograph or ob­serve prairie chick­ens.

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