GREAT BEND – If you’ve never seen a male greater prairie chicken stomp his feet in rapid succession, or heard the “boom” sound as air is expelled from their inflatable throat sacks, you’re missing one of nature’s greatest mating displays. Each day during spring, just before sunrise, communal breeding grounds, known as leks, teem with birds busy with eccentric display behavior. In order to attract females, male greater prairie chickens call, dance, cluck, posture, and stomp, all while defending invisible territory boundary lines from other displaying males.
Lucky for Kansans, one of these leks is accessible through the Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) at Cheyenne Bottoms, 10 miles northeast of Great Bend on K-156 Highway. Thanks to the generosity of a local landowner, staff at KWEC will once again offer tours to the public, age 12 and older, by reservation, through April 30. The cost is $25 per person and reservations must be made at least two days in advance by calling the KWEC at (877) 243-9268.Tours are not conducted every day and are limited to seven people, so interested parties are encouraged to visit wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu for a schedule.
Participants will meet and leave from the KWEC between 5:20-5:45 a.m., depending on the time of sunrise. Staff will drive participants to a local greater prairie chicken lek, where a trailer blind has been set up. From the blind, participants will be able to observe the prairie chickens on the lek, while a guide provides information about these interesting birds and their incredible spectacle. Participants should plan on being in the blind for at least three hours with no facilities.
For more information, or to schedule a tour, call the KWEC at (877) 243-9268.