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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Greater Prairie-Chickens Booming!

We left at 3:30 a.m. to arrive predawn and stealthily crept through the chill darkness to wait at our blind. The faintest light appeared...slowly the males came...the dancing and the booming, reverberating-through-your-body, other-worldly sounds began. We were watching the lek mating rituals of Greater Prairie-Chickens.
Males gather and display at their mating grounds each spring. They rapidly stamp their feet and produce the booming sounds by inflating the orange air sacs on the sides of their neck, the sound comes from air passing through the syrinx and is amplified by the sacs, an extension of the esophagus. Males also make cackling and whooping noises. Females then arrive and decide which male to mate with, while the males compete for females. Females usually choose older, more experienced males with longer legs, larger eye combs, and the best territories within the lek. After mating the females nest and raise the young themselves.
This took place a number of years ago (when we were with our friends Gary and Diane Cole) at the Prairie Ridge Natural Area, Illinois, the only remaining place east of the Mississippi where Greater Prairie-Chickens, a declining species, can be found on their historical grounds.
You can listen to the sound of the Greater Prairie-chicken here


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