Prairie Chicken Lekking, Odessa, NE

Greater Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) displaying on their Lek

Greater Prairie Chickens displaying on their Lek

While in Nebraska we also visited a Greater Prairie Chicken lek.  Curious about the word “lek,” I looked it up and it comes from the Swedish word “lekstaller” translating as “mating ground.”  An excellent word as this is exactly what we saw.  Thirty-four birds, mostly males with about six seemingly disinterested females were gathered in a field on a little rise.  The males were displaying, inflating the air sacs at the sides of their necks and making a sound best described as blowing across the top of a bottle interspersed with wild cackles.  We arrived before dawn, following excellent directions from a friend who had visited the lek the day before.  We heard the booming of the male Prairie Chickens as soon as we stopped the car.  The point for the chickens is for the male to show his fitness as a mate to the females and hope one will choose him.  The males dance, run at each other, puffed up, bright orange air sacs ballooning out from their necks.  The females looked up occasionally but appeared more interested in finding breakfast.  This picture is not the greatest but it’s the best I could do.  We later went into Kansas so we could get a few Kansas birds on our lists and we saw Greater Prairie Chickens in their normal state, airsacs deflated.  They looked like a completely different bird.

The display over, they return to their Grouse-like appearance.

The display over, they return to their Grouse-like appearance.


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