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Kellerton, Iowa - The Kellerton Grasslands Bird Conservation Area in southeast Ringgold County will be the site for the 13th annual Prairie Chicken Day on April 2, beginning at 6 a.m., at the booming ground viewing platform, two miles west of Kellerton on Hwy. 2, then 1.25 miles south on 300th Street.
Prairie Chicken Day is an opportunity for Iowans to experience this unique bird during its demonstrative and entertaining mating display where males work to gain the favor of females during the breeding season. The birds compete by showing their worthiness through aggressive charges and leaps of battle with others on the booming ground.
The activity takes place from middle to late March through middle May beginning around sunrise and until mid morning, then usually resuming in the evening.
“They will be out there every day defending their territory, trying to attract a female,” said Chad Paup wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The Iowa DNR has been reintroducing the greater prairie chickens to the grasslands of Ringgold County since the 1980s with varying success. In recent years, the DNR has partnered with Blank Park Zoo, The Nature Conservancy and the Nebraska Fish and Game Department to capture and transport wild prairie chickens from southwest and central Nebraska to be released on the Kellerton lek and on the Dunn Ranch lek, a few miles to the south in Missouri.
The four year effort of introducing wild birds has increased the Iowa flock to more than 100. These birds have since produced broods in Iowa.
“The prairie chicken population trends follow similar tracks as bobwhite quail. When quail do well, prairie chickens do well and they did well in 2014,” Paup said. “This year, we’ve had a mild winter in our area and if we can get a spring that’s not too wet and not too cool, I think we can have another good production year.”
A limited number of spotting scopes and binoculars will be available to visitors who need them on Prairie Chicken Day with expert birders on hand to help identify other birds in the area.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is encouraging visitors to and residents of Ringgold, Decatur, Taylor, Union, Wayne, Adams and Clarke counties to report any sightings of a group of prairie chickens gathered together, displaying and calling on the leks sites in March and April.
“People may hear them – the haunting ‘booming’ sounds interspersed with whoops and cackles – or they may see the birds jumping or facing off with one another,” said Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife diversity biologist with the Iowa DNR. “Sightings of individual birds are also welcome but we’d primarily like to hear about lek sites.”
The DNR has a video of this activity online at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Wildlife-Stewardship/Non-Game-Wildlife/Diversity-Projects/Prairie-Chicken-Project.
Anyone who sees the activity is encouraged to call or e-mail Shepherd at 515-432-2823 ext. 102, Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.