MDC and Nature Conservancy offer prairie chicken viewing

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Kansas City
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St. Joseph, Mo. – Ancient prairie chicken mating rituals at sunrise on grassy “booming grounds” are rare, as this grassland species is endangered in Missouri. But thanks to preservation and restoration efforts, this spring the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and The Nature Conservancy will offer a chance for people to view prairie chickens on the booming grounds at Dunn Ranch. Limited spots will be available for viewing from a blind, Thursdays through Sundays, March 31-April 24.

The Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie and MDC’s Pawnee Prairie Natural Area are center points in public-private partnerships to aid grassland birds, agriculture and natural life in the Grand River Grasslands. Both areas are west of Eagleville in Harrison County in northwest Missouri. The grassland partnerships extend across public and private land in both Iowa and Missouri.

A viewing blind on a lek, or booming ground, at Dunn Ranch will provide a prairie chicken viewing opportunity for the public. The birds mingle on the lek at dawn and the males do a courtship dance for the hens. Eight viewing spots are available per morning. Advance registration is required. The viewing is free.

Guests should expect to meet their guide at the Dunn Ranch headquarters one hour and 15 minutes before sunrise. This will allow time for the group to get into the blind before the prairie chickens arrive on the booming grounds. Guests must be able to hike one-half mile uphill from the parking lot to the blind. Participants should expect to be in the viewing blind a minimum of two hours. There are no restrooms at the blind.

Use of the viewing blind is by reservation only.  To minimize disturbance to the prairie chickens, visiting the blind and booming grounds without a guide is not allowed.

Prairie chicken numbers dipped precariously low in the Dunn Ranch area during the past decade due primarily to poor weather during the nesting season. But numbers have improved due to good grassland habitat management by MDC and the Conservancy, favorable weather, and a two-state effort to translocate prairie chickens from Nebraska to the Grand River Grasslands. Biologists counted 86 birds on seven different leks during the 2015 spring season. They are hopeful for a good count this spring.

To register for prairie chicken viewing, contact MDC’s Northwest Regional Office in St. Joseph, 816-271-3100. Registration will open on March 1. Guests will be sent a registration packet with maps, times, notes about photography and instructions on what to bring.

MDC connects people with nature. Prairie chickens dancing on a lek is a colorful spectacle in the rich ecology of native grasslands.

For more information about prairie chickens in Missouri, visit Information about MDC’s Pawnee Prairie is available at For information about the Grand River Grasslands and the Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch, visit