Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hot Action at the Booming Ground

     In spite of wildfires, winds, and a bazaar political climate, the Lesser Prairie-chickens still have their ancient mating traditions to perform. Once again, my spring spirits are revived by joining the booming ground party. It is peak breeding time for these birds and they didn't dissappoint. In addition to their antics on the lek this morning, there were other visitors. A coyote came by. I've seen coyotes at this lek before and it's surprising how little effect they have on the behavior of the birds who hardly notice their presence! They may become quiet for a while but few, if any, ever flush. However, when two Northern Harriers swooped by, several birds flushed from the lek. I've never seen a harrier successfully take a prairie chicken but I've observed them diving on the chickens. Later, the coyote followed the two harriers as they hunted near the lek in the same pasture. I think since he knew he couldn't catch a chicken, perhaps he might steal a rabbit that the hawks catch. There's always interesting things to see on the prairie chicken lek besides the chickens!

A cock and hen get to know each other.

video

Several hens (6 total) visited the lek this morning 
and one, in particular, demostrated a defense of
her particular territory as a dominate hen. 
Watch towards the top.
A handsome coyote poses at the edge of the lek.
None of the birds flushed when he appeared.
They know he can't catch them.
video
It is approaching peak booming ground activity. 
The cocks face off at their respective territory
borders and chase other competitors away.

The males defend their territories  and often 
perform daring aerials in the process.
video
This hopeful suitor gets so pumped
that he even kicks up some dirt.
Two Northern Harriers came by and some of the birds flushed.
We watched the raptors work the field next to the lek
while the coyote followed them, hoping to steal any
kill they may have made. They certainly didn't have any
luck with the prairie chickens.

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