Greater Prairie-Chicken males face off as they battle for supremacy in the mating game. The most dominant one will win the chance to breed with the females watching on the sidelines. Yesterday was my first time seeing these beautiful birds and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. This lek (an animal behavior term for an area where animals gather for competitive courtship displays to attract mates) is on the remarkable Switzer Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Nestled in the heart of an Audubon Important Bird Area (the first private IBA in the state of Nebraska!), and family-owned and -operated, this working ranch has a tourism arm, Calamus Outfitters. Every spring, from mid-March to the end of April, they offer an optimal viewing and photography experience, providing an intimate view from blinds of the astounding spectacle (and sounds!) of the mating displays of Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. What makes the experience even more special are the people that work here; their hospitality and their love for the land, for the birds and for conservation, are a treasure. It’s a full-service experience, offering lodging, great food, and guides. There are also many other bird species and other wildlife around to see, including scores of Bald Eagles (a count of 150 on the ice of the Calamus Reservoir two days ago!). And the landscape, mixed-grass prairie on rolling sandhills, provides a beautiful backdrop—as well as subject of its own.
In addition, a Prairie-Chicken Festival is held here every year, which celebrates prairie grouse species, the grasslands they inhabit, and the culture that surrounds them. This year those dates are April 12-14.
Click on the link in my bio, if you want to learn more. You can also view a video there which gives you a sense of the experience. I only had one morning session this time. I can’t wait to go back and spend a few days here someday. A big thank you to @mforsbergphoto
for sharing this very special place with me.