Video by @joelsartore | A greater prairie-chicken is shown 'booming' at the Sutton Prairie-Chicken Ranch (@suttoncenter) near Bartlesville, OK.
Aviculturist Bonnie Gibson lures a male to do this mating dance on a black background for our Photo Ark session.
Part of the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center, this breeding and chick-raising facility serves as a living classroom, allowing biologists to learn how to hatch prairie-chickens from eggs, raise the young, and eventually release the birds successfully into the wild. The goal is to eventually switch to the propagation and release of a close cousin, the critically-endangered Attwater's prairie-chicken.
"These birds are raised two ways, some to be very tame for breeding here and some to be wild for release," said Gibson. "By raising one group to be tame, they're much more likely to breed freely in captivity. So they've grown up seeing people on a daily basis and are not stressed around us. Because this male now perceives me as his competition toward the hen that's in his enclosure, he booms at me all the time. Usually the minute I come in here, he's at the front of his enclosure so he can start fighting with me. That is his territory, and I'm entering it, so he's going to be on the defense. He has a hen in there with him, and he's trying to defend his breeding rights," Gibson said.
To say these birds are impressive is an understatement.
"Along with bison, these birds are the icons of the Great Plains,' said Dr. Steve Sherrod, the founder of the Sutton Center and current Director of Conservation there.
"They're spectacular birds. You can go around the world looking for wildlife behavior, but there's nothing better than the display of prairie-chickens found throughout the Great Plains of the U.S. They're the birds of paradise of North America," Sherrod said.
To see the best greater prairie-chicken photo we made that day, check out @joelsartore. .
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