The Dancing Birds

Lesser Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) - Milnesand, New Mexico

Lesser Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) - Milnesand, New Mexico

Have you ever seen a bird dance?  No?  A couple minutes on YouTube will turn up some amazing dancing birds including Birds of Paradise and a manikin that does the moonwalk, but have you ever actually seen a bird dance?  Well, you don’t have to travel to the tropics to witness these amazing phenomena.  Depending where you live in the United States, it may be in your backyard or fairly close nearby…

Of course, I am not talking about seeing a Bird of Paradise or Mannakin here in the US.  I am talking about witnessing the annual spring dance of birds from the Grouse family.  These incredible birds include both Grouse and Prairie Chickens and are fairly easy to witness if you live in the Interior West.  If you live in the east, the Ruffed Grouse is as close as you can get and while they might not be dancing, their display is equally as impressive to watch.

This week I’ll be taking you on a journey to the prairies of eastern New Mexico to witness the displays of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, central Texas to search for the nearly extinct Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, and into the depths of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at University of California, Berkeley to find the extinct Heath Hen.  We’ll look at the display themselves, the reason for the display, and the dynamic natural history at play.  Check back tomorrow for our first stop, Milnesand, New Mexico.

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