MDC offers prairie chicken viewing at Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie

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Kansas City
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El Dorado Springs, Mo. – An ancient courtship ritual will occur this spring atop a hill at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie, and the public will have a chance to watch. Prairie chickens perform a unique mating dance in spring when males pound their feet on the ground, strut and making booming sounds to win females. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will offer the public a chance to view prairie chickens on a lek, or booming ground, at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie 6 to 9 a.m.  on March 19 or March 26.

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited to the first 50 people who register for each day of viewing. Participants will meet at MDC’s office in El Dorado Springs. A school bus will take observers out to the prairie and will park on a road within sight of the lek. Participants will be able to watch the prairie chickens and take photographs from the bus. The bus allows guests a higher elevation for viewing but also minimizes disturbance of prairie chickens on the lek.

Please note that this is an early morning activity, as that is when the birds visit the leks. MDC experts will also be available to talk about prairie chickens and grassland conservation.

Prairie chickens are endangered in Missouri. A small remnant flock has survived at the Taberville Prairie Conservation Area north of Wah’Kon-Tah. But the flock at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie was restored with birds translocated from Kansas. Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by MDC, and MDC also owns some acreage in the area north of El Dorado Springs.

Besides restoring prairie chickens to the area, biologists are also studying what grassland habitat management choices best help prairie chickens and all grasslands species thrive.

Habitat loss led to prairie chicken declines. Only tiny parcels of Missouri’s once vast prairies remain. Poor weather during nesting season has hurt recovery efforts in the past decade, although birds in the Wah’Kon-Tah area have held steady in the past few years.

The public is asked not to approach or disturb prairie chickens on leks at wildlife areas. Please do not leave roadways to photograph or observe prairie chickens.

To register for the public viewing days, call MDC’s El Dorado Springs office at 417-876-5792.

For more information about prairie chickens in Missouri, visit Information about Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is available at