Prairie Chickens

There’s more to birding in the area around North Platte than the annual Sandhill Crane migration. Every spring during the early morning hours a lucky few people will witness the mating dance of the Greater Prairie Chicken. The sound and sight of the annual spring rite of passage of the Prairie Chicken is a must-see for dedicated nature lovers. Their deep thrumming song, their dancing feet and the bright orange ornamentation they wear on their necks is stunning. The NCORPE property near Welfleets offer the opportunity to view their exuberant mating ritual.

The public is invited to view the spectacular mating rituals of the male prairie-chickens and 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 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 dances. Every year the prairie chickens return to their leks to display and mate. This sight is one that should be included on everyone’s bucket list of must-see experiences.

A free viewing blind is available at the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (NCORPE) property southwest of North Platte. Those wishing to view prairie chickens from this blind need to contact Bill Sellers at 308-534-6752 or email bsellers@urnrd.org for information and reservations. This is a great opportunity to view these unique mating displays of the prairie chicken. You can download the viewing instructions for the NCORPE blind here: Prairie-Chicken-Blind-2019.

Visitors should arrive at blinds set up on display grounds an hour and a half before sunrise; visitors should stay until the displays are finished, usually two-to-three hours after sunrise to lessen the disturbance of the birds. Lights and flashes on mobile devises or cameras should not be used and all sounds should be muted.