You’re most likely to see lesser prairie-chickens in springtime, when they gather on leks to display and mate.
Perfectly colored to blend in with their prairie surroundings, lesser prairie-chickens (both male and female) are light brown, barred birds that weigh from 1 to 2 pounds and measure 15-16 inches from beak tip to tail. Males are easy to distinguish from females during their springtime mating display, which is when you have the best chance of spotting them. As they display, males erect golden combs of feathers over each eye, along with elongated “ear” feathers called pinnae, on their necks. Below the pinnae, males have reddish, featherless areas of skin, which they inflate during mating displays.
In parts of western Kansas, the range lesser prairie-chickens overlaps with that of greater prairie-chickens and the two species hybridize. That can make for tricky identification! Find out more.
Lesser prairie-chickens are most visible in springtime, when they gather on leks to display and mate. A number of private ranches in lesser prairie-chicken country offer lodging and viewing opportunities.
Woodward Oklahoma hosts the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival every year in April. Find out details.
You’ll find opportunities for viewing lesser prairie-chickens both through private outfitters and through public outings in the five-state range. Search “lesser prairie-chicken viewing” on the web for listings in your region.
It’s essential to be settled in the viewing blind before lesser prairie-chickens arrive on the lek in the morning and to stay until the birds depart the lek, usually mid-morning, to avoid disturbing them. That means arriving well before first light.
Left: Lesser prairie-chicken viewing blind in Kansas. Michelle Butler photo.