Greater prairie-chickens are links to Missouri’s once vast native grasslands, and though state endangered, they still dance and “boom” on Harrison County hilltops thanks to conservation partnerships. The males’ noble struts and stomps on hilltop leks to attract hens for mating will be offered via an online webcam this spring. Prairie-chicken conservation is a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and private landowners in the Grand River Grasslands. A free webinar about prairie-chickens will take people virtually to the prairie from 7 to 8 a.m. on Friday, April 9, with live video from a TNC camera focused on a lek at Dunn Ranch Prairie.
Featured speakers for the webinar will be Steve Buback, MDC natural history biologist, and Kent Wamsley, TNC grasslands and sustainable agriculture strategy manager in Missouri. They will discuss the history of prairie-chickens on Missouri’s native grasslands and the challenges the relatively small flocks of endangered birds face today. During the webinar, there will also be live video from an active prairie-chicken lek at TNC’s Dunn Ranch Prairie.
“Prairie-chickens are natural and iconic representatives of the tallgrass prairie,” Buback said. “Their leks are an ancient, hardwired part of these birds, demonstrated by the fact that even birds trapped elsewhere and reintroduced to a grassland will use the same ancestral lek sites. Having never seen a landscape prior to release, they choose the same sites for courtship as prior prairie-chickens did for thousands of years.”
To connect with the webinar and live lek cam:
Register and RSVP link for webinar – https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZDQ.
View lek on live camera anytime www.nature.org/dunnranchlive.
In-person viewing of the lek will not be offered this year due to COVID-19 precautions and to reduce disturbance on the lek. But the lek camera will remain available to the public for virtual viewing online through May. The camera will switch to bison calves when prairie-chickens are done booming.
The prairie-chicken flocks in the Grand River Grasslands benefit from native grassland habitat improvements by MDC, TNC, private landowners, and conservation efforts in neighboring Iowa. TNC’s Dunn Ranch and MDC’s private land conservation experts are showing how healthy native grasslands can be part of profitable ranching and farming operations. The Grand River Grasslands are an MDC priority geography for enhancing native habitats for all grassland birds, butterflies, and wildlife.
For information on incorporating healthy grassland and stream management into plans for your property, visit Your Property | Missouri Department of Conservation (mo.gov). To learn more about greater prairie-chickens, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZGu.