Prairie Chicken Dance Tours

Prairie Chickens

COVID 19 Statement from Dusty Trails

Thank you so much for your support of our Sandhill Crane and Prairie Chicken tours. As a small business owner just getting started in offering these wildlife viewing opportunities, I appreciate your booking very much.

The Dusty Trails Sandhill Crane and Prairie Chicken tours are small groups. The capacity for the bus tours to the Crane and Prairie Chicken viewing sites is 8 and the river viewing blind is 9. This will provide ample opportunity to enjoy these experiences while safely maintaining the recommended social distancing.

In addition, we will provide hand sanitizer for all of our guests and will thoroughly sanitize all of the surfaces in our bus and the blind between tours. We will be screening our visitors for signs of illness – sneezing, coughing, fever – and also ask them to self-screen. Should anyone exhibit signs of illness, we would ask them to postpone their visit to the 2021 season.

Should you decide that you do not want to travel this year, we will honor your reservations for the same tour in the 2021 season.

Thank you so much for your understanding. We are looking forward to helping you to experience the amazing spring birding opportunities here in North Platte.

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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.

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.

Prairie Chicken Dance Tours

In the spring the hearts of the Nebraska Greater Prairie Chickens turn toward love. To successfully attract a female mate, the male Prairie Chickens must impress them with their dancing prowess. Males will gather in large numbers on dancing grounds knowns as leks. They will cackle, jump and stomp their feet, sometimes scuffling with a rival. Then they will scrunch down and inflate their bright orange neck sacks and emit an eerie booming sound.

The ladies on the other hand will observe the shenanigans circumspectly, examining the prospects with a critical eye. However, if they see something they like, they may come forward for a brief, flurried assignation.

Dusty Trails will host an excursion to a large and busy Prairie Chicken lek located south of Sutherland. The tours will depart from the North Platte Visitor’s Bureau, 101 Halligan Drive. Tours during the month of March will depart at 5:30am. Tours during the month of April will depart at 5:00am, due to the earlier sunrise. Tours will arrive back in North Platte between 9:00am and 10:00am. The Visitors Bureau is closed at this time. However, if you need to use the restroom or purchase some supplies for the trip, there is a 24-hour service station located next door. Please plan to be ready to board the bus 10 minutes before departure time. Visitors will be transported to the lek by bus or van, a trip of about an hour. Coffee, juice and breakfast pastries will be provided on the bus. Feel free to bring your own refreshments, but please, no alcoholic beverages. At the lek there will be a portapotty.

Actual photo of Prairie Chicken lek in 2019

Though the viewing blind at the lek is enclosed, it will still be very chilly. Warm, seasonally appropriate clothing is a must. Hats, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy coats and outerwear and sturdy boots are recommended.

There will be some binoculars to share, but feel free to bring some to enhance your viewing experience, as well as whatever video and photography equipment you would like. Flash photography and additional lighting is strictly prohibited.

Visits to the blind on the Prairie Chicken Lek are scheduled for March 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, April 2, and then every Saturday and Sunday from April 4 through April 26.

There will be two small (1-2 person) photographer blinds available at the lek which will provide a ground-level view of the action. These must be purchased in addition to a regular tour ticket. The cost for a photographer blind is $20.00. Please note: Once in the unheated photographer blind, you will not be able to exit until your guide comes to get you when the Prairie Chickens have departed the lek. You will not be able to use the restroom during this time.

Each tour size is limited to 18 individuals. For larger groups, please contact Dusty Trails LLC Outdoor Specialists at 308-530-0048. Adult tour prices are $55.00 per person; Children ages 5 – 10 are half price ($27.50). This tour is not recommended for children four and under. To book your tour click here: 2020 Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

This is actual footage taken from a visit to the lek in 2019. Turn your sound up!

 
 

Moonlight Horseback Excursion

An incredible dawn horseback excursion to the Prairie Chicken Lek is scheduled for three days surrounding the full moon in April, April 6, 7 and 8. No previous horseback experience is necessary.

The tour departs at 3:00am from the North Platte Visitors Bureau at 101 Halligan Drive for the Barner Ranch north of Wallace, a drive of approximately an hour. The Visitors Bureau is closed at this time. However, there is a 24-hour service station next door if you need to use the rest room or purchase supplies for the trip. Please be ready to be on the bus 10 minutes prior to departure.

From there you will mount up and enjoy an incredible moonlight horseback ride about four miles to the Lek where you will dismount and make your way to the blind.

You will be treated to the beautiful night sky as the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon, dimmed only by the brilliance of the full moon. Light pollution is minimal, with only faint glows on the horizon marking far away towns. As dawn approaches, the prairie awakens. Crickets will be heard chirping in the grass, Meadowlarks will begin their full throated calls. Families of Coyotes will begin to sing, teaching the pups born earlier in the spring to greet the coming day. And then a low thrumming will begin reverberating through the air. The earliest risers among the Greater Prairie Chickens are getting warmed up for their performances.

Dusty Trails LLC is North Platte’s premiere outdoor outfitter. Each year hundreds of visitors enjoy trail rides through the Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area hosted by Dusty Trails. Girl Scouts from across the state have enjoyed Dusty Trails Trail Rides in areas such as the Halsey National Forest and along Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail. Dusty Barner’s expertise, the professionalism of his wranglers, and his experienced, gentle horses will make even the most timid rider feel comfortable.

Please dress warmly. Hats, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy outerwear and sturdy boots will be necessary. Because everything must be packed in on horseback, only minimal camera equipment is appropriate on this excursion.

Coffee, juice and breakfast pastries will be served on the bus. Bottled water will be provided at the lek. On the excursion you’ll build up an appetite, so you’ll be hosted to a hearty breakfast at the Barner Ranch following your adventure. The tour will be back in North Platte at about noon.

Tour prices are $250.00 per person for everyone 12 and over. This tour is not appropriate for children age 11 and younger. To book your tour click here: 2020 Full Moon Horseback Excursion.

Please enjoy these hotel partners for your stay:

North Platte Super 8 – Birding Rate $62.00 plus tax for any room type. Contact the Super 8 directly at 308-532-4224
Holiday Inn Express – Birding rate 99.95 plus tax. Contact the Holiday Inn Express directly at 308-532-9500
Best Western Plus – Birding rate 89.95 plus tax. Contact the Best Western Plus directly at 308-534-3120