Just before the sun rises over the vast grasslands each spring, while most people are still snug in their beds, prairie-chickens are busy putting on a show that is critical to their survival. In April, staff from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center will lead guided field trips to watch the birds’ mating rituals at Cheyenne Bottoms.
Male prairie-chickens strut around on communal mating grounds known as “leks,” where they fight, call and dance to win the affection of females, according to the KWEC website (wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu). Only the best males are chosen to mate. On a still morning on the prairie, their call, called a boom, can be heard over a mile away. It is one of the most fascinating and unique natural phenomenons people can watch. Lek tours draw people from around the world each year to the Great Plains.
Field trips will be available to the public on select days by reservation only. Participants will meet and leave from the KWEC, located 10 miles northeast of Great Bend on K-156, by 5:30-5:45 a.m. depending on the time of sunrise. Staff will drive participants to a local greater prairie-chicken lek, where there is a trailer blind sitting. From the blind, they will be able to observe the prairie-chickens on the lek, and the guide will be there to talk about the birds and the incredible spectacle.
Reservations must be made at least two days prior to the field trip. Seating is limited to seven people and is limited to ages 12 years and older. Transportation to the lek will be provided. Participants should plan on being in the blind for at least three hours with no facilities available. Cost is $25 per person. Call the KWEC, 877-243-9268, to register and receive more information.
Lek tour dates and times are as follows: Wednesday, April 1, meeting at KWEC at 5:45 a.m.; Thursday, April 9, 5:45 a.m.; Saturday, April 11, 5:30 a.m.; Sunday, April 12, 5:30 a.m.; Saturday, April 18, 5:30 a.m.; Sunday, April 19, 5:30 a.m.; Thursday, April 30, 5:20 a.m.