Preening in the Lek

Prairie ChickensHere’s a program from our archives. Ambience: Prairie Chickens They go by the unassuming name of Prairie Chicken, but their courtship is anything but ordinary. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Right now in the tall grass prairies of central North America, it’s mating season for the Greater Prairie Chicken. These recordings of Prairie Chickens were made at dawn on a remote hilltop in Anderson County, Kansas, by Richard Prum, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who joins us on the program.Prum: Through the shadows, often before you can even see them, you’ll start hearing the first of the booming males. Typically, one brave male will show up on the lek and start his courtship display.The Lek is the area where the male Prairie Chickens display. This hilltop lek with over 20 males displaying is nearly the size of a football field.Prum: And soon after that with a very first light, dozens of males will gather and begin to all display in unison. Periodically, fights will break out among neighboring males at the edges of their territorial boundaries and then on occasion, a female will begin to walk slowly through the lek. Each male defends an area about ten, fifteen meters across and as the female saunters across the lek each male begins displaying furiously and accompanying the female through the lek and up to the edges of the territories where she will cross into yet another male’s territory. At these boundaries, often fights, punctuated by loud alarm calls, will frequently break out among neighboring males. If the female will frequently visit the lek a number of times before she choses a mate and after she chooses a mate, mating is very quick and she leaves the lek and goes off and raises the young on her own.More on Prairie Chickens in future programs. We’ve been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast.

Preening in the Lek

During mating season, male prairie chickens perform one of nature's most striking displays.
Air Date:03/11/2020
Scientist:
Transcript:

Prairie ChickensHere's a program from our archives. Ambience: Prairie Chickens They go by the unassuming name of Prairie Chicken, but their courtship is anything but ordinary. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Right now in the tall grass prairies of central North America, it's mating season for the Greater Prairie Chicken. These recordings of Prairie Chickens were made at dawn on a remote hilltop in Anderson County, Kansas, by Richard Prum, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who joins us on the program.Prum: Through the shadows, often before you can even see them, you'll start hearing the first of the booming males. Typically, one brave male will show up on the lek and start his courtship display.The Lek is the area where the male Prairie Chickens display. This hilltop lek with over 20 males displaying is nearly the size of a football field.Prum: And soon after that with a very first light, dozens of males will gather and begin to all display in unison. Periodically, fights will break out among neighboring males at the edges of their territorial boundaries and then on occasion, a female will begin to walk slowly through the lek. Each male defends an area about ten, fifteen meters across and as the female saunters across the lek each male begins displaying furiously and accompanying the female through the lek and up to the edges of the territories where she will cross into yet another male's territory. At these boundaries, often fights, punctuated by loud alarm calls, will frequently break out among neighboring males. If the female will frequently visit the lek a number of times before she choses a mate and after she chooses a mate, mating is very quick and she leaves the lek and goes off and raises the young on her own.More on Prairie Chickens in future programs. We've been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast.