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View greater prairie-chickens from Burchard WMA blinds

Greater prairie-chickens display on a lek in Johnson County. Viewing blinds are available for the public to observe a prairie-chicken lek at Burchard Wildlife Management Area in Pawnee County. (Nebraskaland Magazine/NGPC)

Wildlife enthusiasts can observe the courtship ritual of the greater prairie-chicken in southeastern Nebraska. Approximately 20 birds have been using a lek at Burchard Wildlife Management Area in Pawnee County.

A lek is a specific area where the birds gather to display their mating rituals year after year. The public is invited to view the spectacular mating rituals of the male prairie-chickens. Viewers will be able to interact in the bird’s environment and see the importance for conservation of habitat for these birds.

Prairie-chickens are an overlooked native species that put on a great mating show. Males will drum their feet and strut in their territory on the lek while keeping other males away in their attempts to attract a female. The males have brightly colored air sacs on the sides of their necks that they inflate and “ear-like” pinnae feathers that they raise and lower during their displays.

To view the prairie-chickens, the WMA has two observation blinds available on a first-come basis. No reservations are required. The blinds, which have been on the WMA since the mid-1970s, are located on the hill between the north and south neck of the lake. Follow the lake’s perimeter road and the signs marking the trail to the blinds. One blind is located the north side of the lek and the other on the south side. Each blind can accommodate at least six adults.

Viewing sessions begin one hour before sunrise so that viewers can get into the blind without disturbing the prairie-chickens in their natural habitat. Plan to stay in the blind until the birds leave the lek, which is usually two to three hours. Camera flashes should not be used and all electronic devices should be on silent.

Contact Nathan Wieseler for more information at 402-335-2534.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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