The Sex Life of Greater Prairie-Chickens – Sandhills, Nebraska

Greater prairie-chickens are a lekking species of grouse that reside in open grasslands throughout several midwestern states. Leks are aggregations of males visited by females for the sole purpose of mating. Males gather together for several months in the breeding season, each defending a territory within the lek. Females typically choose to mate with one, maybe two males that have the best positions within the lek.

To secure prime territory, a male must establish dominance within the lek’s social hierarchy. Mating displays and territorial disputes include booming, flutter-jumps, cackling, whooping, feet drumming, and fighting.

The following photos were taken during a recent Reefs to Rockies trip to Switzer Ranch near Burwell, Nebraska. Switzer Ranch is currently working to preserve valuable habitat for greater prairie-chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, and a variety of other grassland species.

birding eco tour Reefs to Rockies
Female greater prairie-chicken arriving to lek.
birding eco tour Reefs to Rockies
Two male greater prairie-chickens “booming” for the female.
birding eco tour Reefs to Rockies
Two male greater prairie-chickens at beginning of fight sequence.
birding eco tour Reefs to Rockies
Greater prairie-chickens fighting at the lek.

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birding eco tour Reefs to Rockies
Male greater prairie-chickens fighting at their lek.