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Stomping, fluffing, puffing: The mating displays of lesser prairie-chickens

When lesser prairie-chickens mate, the action starts early. Before dawn in April and May, males stomp their feet in the grass like they’re warming up for a track meet. As they dance, they inflate bright red air sacs on the sides of their necks and raise feathered neck tufts. With these displays and a chorus of warbling squawks, the males chase and fight each other in an attempt to win the right to mate with as many females as they can. These impressive performances have made the birds the stars of an annual lesser prairie chicken festival each April—and the poster species for an imperiled ecosystem.

Fluffy orange eyebrows, tall bunny-ear style feathers (neck plumes called pinnae), puffed reddish-orange air-sacs, and lots of stomping and patrolling. See the mating displays of the Tympanuchus pallidicinctus in this bioGraphic video by Day’s Edge Productions. Then read more about the threats to their habitat across the central United States and the conservations efforts being made on their behalf: A Grand Experiment on the Grasslands.

Next, more mating dances: The Greater Sage-Grouse’s courtship ritual, widow birds bounce and leap for attention, the male Costa’s hummingbird has a tiny octopus face, and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Birds of Paradise project.

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