MDC and TNC offer free virtual prairie-chicken webinar on Earth Day April 22

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Kansas City, Mo. – Celebrate Earth Day with a faithful Missouri original—prairie-chickens dancing on a Harrison County hilltop at sunrise. Watch endangered greater prairie-chickens do their mating dance and “boom” with a free virtual webinar from 7 to 8 a.m. on Friday, April 22. A live video link to a camera focused on a Dunn Ranch Prairie lek will be hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Webinar speakers will be Steve Buback, MDC natural history biologist, and Kent Wamsley, TNC grasslands and sustainable agriculture strategy manager. They will talk about the history of prairie-chickens on native grasslands and modern approaches to grassland management.

“Prairie-chickens are natural and iconic representatives of the tallgrass prairie,” Buback said. “Their leks are an ancient, hardwired part of these birds, demonstrated by the fact that even birds trapped elsewhere and reintroduced to a grassland will use the same ancestral lek sites. Having never seen a landscape prior to release, they choose the same sites for courtship as prior prairie-chickens did for thousands of years.” 

Greater prairie-chickens are state endangered in Missouri due to habitat loss and environmental factors. Historically found by the thousands throughout much of the state, they have declined to one small flock in northwest Missouri. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Missouri’s once vast and varied unplowed native grasslands remain, and those are in scattered remnant tracts. The prairie-chickens at Dunn Ranch Prairie endure thanks to public and private-land conservation partnerships in the Grand River Grasslands, on both sides of the Missouri and Iowa state line.

Biologists will be watching this spring as prairie-chickens return to historic lek sites at TNC’s Dunn Ranch Prairie, MDC’s Pawnee Prairie, and some private lands nearby. MDC has worked with TNC and private landowners in the Grand River Grasslands priority geography to enhance habitat for birds and other wildlife adapted to the wide variety of native wildflowers and deep-rooted grasses found in original prairie. That work includes expertise and financial help for ranchers to make cattle grazing profitable alongside conservation practices.

The challenges faced by prairie-chickens are shared by other ground-dwelling grassland birds, such as bobwhite quail and meadowlarks. Native pollinators such as butterflies and bees are also at risk. But on Earth Day, visitors to the webinar can connect with prairie species and the efforts to protect them.

Options for connecting with the free webinar and live lek cam: 

  • Facebook event page:
  • RSVP link -
  • Event page on TNC’s website –

In-person viewing of the lek will not be offered this year due to COVID-19 precautions and to reduce disturbance on the lek. But the lek camera will remain available to the public for virtual viewing online at  through April.

For information on healthy grasslands and prairie streams for your property, visit Your Property | Missouri Department of Conservation ( To learn more about greater prairie-chickens, visit