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View endangered prairie chickens

Watch the foot-stomping strut and hear the booming call of the male prairie chicken at a limited, guided viewing of these endangered native birds.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will host two public viewings of prairie chickens from 6 – 9 a.m. on Saturdays, March 18 and March 25 at the Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie near El Dorado Springs, MO.

The events are free, but space is limited and reservations must be made in advance by calling the MDC office at 417-876-5792.

Participants will meet at MDC’s office in El Dorado Springs at 1109 S. Main St. A school bus will take observers out to the prairie and will park on a road within sight of the lek, a booming ground where prairie chickens mate in the spring. Participants will be able to take photographs and watch the prairie chickens from the bus. The bus serves as a blind, minimizes disturbance of birds and provides participants a higher elevation for viewing.

The viewing is scheduled for early morning – sunrise and just beyond – because that’s when the birds are most active on the leks. MDC biologists will answer questions 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. 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.

Besides restoring prairie chickens to the area, biologists are also studying what grassland habitat management choices best help prairie chickens, native plants and all grassland species thrive in the Upper Osage Grasslands.

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.

For more information about prairie chickens in Missouri, visit the MDC or Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie

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