From 2009, this male Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) is “booming” on a prairie “lek”, in north-central Missouri:
“Booming” refers to the rather eerie noise the male makes, by filling his air sacs, then exhaling in several, short bursts. This behavior is performed to attract the females (hens) for mating. And the “lek” refers to the short grass prairie hill, where this attraction/mating behavior takes place. Prairie Chickens are a unique bird, requiring both tall grass prairies and short grass prairies to survive. The tall grass prairie is needed for nesting and cover for the young chicks, after they hatch. And the short grass prairie is required for mating; the short grasses make it very difficult for predators (coyotes, hawks, badgers, foxes, etc.) to sneak up on the chickens.
When this image was made, I was one of 3 tour guides who rotated around, taking visitors to a special blind for viewing of the prairie chicken’s behavior. 2009 was the last time we were able to provide tours, as the prairie chicken population had decreased to only a handful of birds. But Missouri has recently been involved with a program from neighboring Kansas, to bring in more chickens in an attempt to keep the population alive. Kansas, as anyone who has traveled through the state knows, still has a lot of prairies … and a rather large population of prairie chickens. In fact, hunting of prairie chickens is still legal in Kansas. I’m hoping one of these days I will get a phone call asking to once again help with guiding visitors to the blind!
Photographic Equipment Used:
- Canon1D Mark 3 body
- Canon EF 500mm, f/4 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
- Bogen 3221 tripod, with Wimberly gimbal head, captured from a blind
- ISO 800
- Aperture f/5.6
- Shutter 1/250 sec.