A male lesser prairie-chicken admires a potential female mate on a lek .
Mating Ritual A male lesser prairie-chicken (left) admires a potential mate on a lek at The Nature Conservancy's Smoky Valley Ranch in western Kansas. © Justin Roemer/TNC

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Nature Conservancy Launches Lesser Prairie-Chicken Live Stream

This bird's mating ritual involves dancing, prancing, stomping and jumping, all accompanied by the birds’ distinctive call known as “booming.”

Each spring, male lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) face off at sunrise, competing to be selected to mate with awaiting females. The battles involve dancing, prancing, stomping and jumping, all accompanied by the birds’ distinctive call known as “booming.” This year, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is bringing this unique song and dance to the public by offering a live stream from the organization’s Smoky Valley Ranch in western Kansas.

“The area around Smoky Valley Ranch, between the Arkansas River and I-70, now holds from half to two-thirds of all lesser prairie-chickens in the world,” says Matt Bain, TNC’s western Kansas conservation manager. “Most people will never have the opportunity to see this species in the wild, so this is our way of bringing nature to people.”

The live stream can be found at www.nature.org/smokyvalleyranchlive. The camera will have a live feed from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily through mid-May. Recordings of the previous morning or evening can also be watched at the same web address.

Male lesser prairie-chickens jumping and flapping their wings.
Lesser Prairie-Chickens Lesser prairie-chickens jumping and flying during breeding season at Smoky Valley Ranch, Kansas. © Jim Richardson

The spring mating display takes place on breeding grounds called leks, and the opportunity to witness it is increasingly rare. With suitable habitat in just five states (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas), lesser prairie-chickens were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. A lawsuit challenging the listing ended in a judge vacating the listing decision in 2015. Another petition for listing as Threatened was received in 2016 and a finding is expected in May 2021.

What's Next for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken?

Join the May 4th webinar learn more about this charismatic bird.

Register Now

In addition to the live stream, TNC is also offering an informational webinar about lesser prairie-chickens in advance of next month’s endangered species finding. What’s Next for the Prairie Chicken? will be held on May 4 and feature speakers from TNC, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and coordinators of the High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival that was held in New Mexico for several years in the early 2000s. The webinar is free but registration is required.

About Smoky Valley Ranch:
The Nature Conservancy’s Smoky Valley Ranch is an 18,000-acre shortgrass prairie ranch in Logan County, Kansas. The property supports tremendous plant and wildlife diversity while continuing its long history as a working cattle and bison ranch. The expansive grasslands feature chalk bluffs overlooking the Smoky Hill River and are home to both lesser prairie-chickens and greater prairie-chickens, pronghorn, mule and white-tail deer, ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, golden eagles and swift fox. Visitors are welcomed at the 1-mile and 6-mile hiking and horseback trails located on the western boundary of the ranch. Learn more at www.nature.org/smokyvalleyranch.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.