The spring dance of the greater prairie chickens is an intriguing courtship display characterized by stomping feet, towering leaps and resonant booming noises from inflated yellow-orange air sacs along the sides of their necks.
The Sandhills Motel and Glidden Canoe Rental near Mullen has offered viewings of prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse courtship rituals since 2001. Visit sandhillsmotel.com to book a viewing tour.
Calamus Outfitters near Burwell also offers prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse booming tours during the prairie chicken courting season. Reservations can be made at calamusoutfitters.com.
Calamus Outfitters and the Gracie Creek Landowners will host the 2013 Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival from April 5–7. The festival will include guided tours to view dancing prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse, educational seminars, ranch tours and live entertainment.
McCook is launching organized prairie chicken viewing excursions this year. Tours during the four weekends in April will include a Friday evening dinner and educational seminar, viewing etiquette and photography tips, as well as a Saturday morning viewing. Optional activities, including other wildlife viewing possibilities, will be offered Saturday, followed by the opportunity to spend a second night and enjoy a Sunday viewing. Visit gotomccook.com for details.
Big Blue Ranch and Lodge near Burchard offers prairie chicken bird watching tour packages from March to May that include lodging, prairie chicken courtship behavior and viewing orientation, and transportation to and from lek booming sites. Go to www.bigblueranch.com for more information.
Look for Paul Johnsgard’s essay on prairie chickens in next month’s Prairie Fire.
—Compiled by the Nebraska Tourism Commission