State-Endangered Greater Prairie-Chickens’ Unique Mating Dance to be Live Streamed from The Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie for the First Time

HATFIELD, Mo. April 21, 2020 — Each spring, state-endangered greater prairie-chickens make their way to the leks (breeding grounds) at The Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie in northwestern Missouri to meet a mate. This year and in celebration of Earth Day, TNC is making the bird’s unique dance and booming calls available for the public by offering a live stream from the prairie.

“Dunn Ranch Prairie is home to one of the last populations of greater prairie-chickens in the state,” says Kent Wamsley, TNC’s grasslands and sustainable agriculture strategy manager in Missouri. “Their unique and ancient mating rituals are always a popular attraction. We wanted to find a way to bring nature to people during this time,” says Wamsley. This year, TNC and their partner, the Missouri Department of Conservation chose to cancel all public tours to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The typical mating season for prairie-chickens is early spring, with most action happening on leks in April. The lek on Dunn Ranch Prairie is located in one of the bison units, which is closed to the public. The best viewing hours to see the prairie-chickens is dawn to mid-morning (6 am-9 am CST) and again in the early evening until dusk (5 pm-8 pm CST). However, the live stream will run all day and viewers are encouraged to watch for other wildlife that might make appearances on the live stream, including deer, coyotes, bobcats, multiple species of birds and more.

The live stream can be found at www.nature.org/DunnRanchLive. 

Following the end of prairie-chicken season, TNC intends to move the cameras around the prairie to stream other nature happenings like the arrival of bison calves in May, fields of prairie flowers blooming in the summer, the sights and songs of migrating and nesting bird species and the monarch migration in September.

“Native tallgrass prairies are the least protected habitat on the earth,” says Wamsley. “We hope this live prairie camera brings more awareness to the importance of this landscape and the benefits it provides to both people and nature. Additionally, when people are too far away to come to the prairie or when other factors limit their visit to the site; we wanted to do all we can to bring the prairie to them.”

About Dunn Ranch Prairie:

Dunn Ranch Prairie, located in Hatfield, MO is a 3,258-acre tallgrass prairie and is a research hub for scientists from a variety of fields, offering rare opportunities to study topics such as pollinator health, soil quality, and bison movements. These findings, along with the knowledge gained from in-depth analyses of restoration activities, are freely shared so they can be applied to grassland restorations around the globe.

Dunn Ranch Prairie boasts breathtaking views of expansive grasslands, a thriving American bison herd, hundreds of vibrant wildflower species, and more than 100 species of migratory and nesting birds. It is home to one of the last populations of the state-endangered greater prairie-chicken and the federally endangered Topeka shiner, which was reintroduced to Dunn Ranch Prairie headwater streams in the fall of 2013. Both require a healthy and diverse prairie ecosystem to survive, reproduce, and thrive.

For more information, visit www.nature.org/DunnRanchPrairie

About The Nature Conservancy:

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. 

Together with members and conservation partners, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 150,000 acres of critical Missouri lands since 1956. To learn more visit  www.nature.org/Missouri.