Prairie Chicken Festival Coming in April
For the City-Times
What does it take to get a birdwatcher out of bed at 3 AM on a Saturday? For hundreds of people around the country, it’s the 2014 Central Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival.
Meet and greet for prairie chickens starts just before dawn, so visitors will meet for coffee at the Kiwanis Lodge in Kellner, WI, on the mornings of April 11th, 12th, and 13th before being led to leks, or “booming grounds,” to observe the bird’s a musing courtship displays. Hosted by Golden Sands RC&D in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Central Wisconsin Community Foundation, the festival opens up a once in a lifetime opportunity to anyone hoping to scratch this “bucket list” bird off of their wish list.
Prior to the agricultural revolution, this prairie inhabitant was once common all across the Midwest and numbered in the millions. Intensive agriculture and residential development in the early 20th century wiped out most of the prairie chicken’s habitat and reduced its numbers to around 55,000 in Wisconsin when hunting was prohibited.
Today, the continued loss of grassland habitat and genetic diversity has reduced the bird’s population to just 600 individuals.
Golden Sands RC&D continues to educate the public and work with farmers and landowners to keep working lands productive while
providing homes for the prairie chicken and other unique grassland species. Space is limited and fills quickly in the weeks prior to the festival.
Visitors sit in a small plywood shack, or “viewing blind,” which seats four people comfortably, allowing the unique opportunity to share this experience with friends and family.
Wildlife photographers are also welcome and may purchase an additional seat for equipment.
Don’t forget to dress warm! Weather can be very unpredictable in mid-April.
Reservations are $45 per person and include prairie chicken viewing, hot breakfast, a presentation on prairie chicken conservation, and a seat on a Grassland Bird Tour. Reservations can be made online at www.prairiechickenfestival.org or by calling Golden Sands RC&D at (715) 343-6215.