The 2012 Annual Prairie Chicken Festival is coming up in southwest Iowa. The two-day event will be held at the Ringgold County Courthouse auditorium in Mount Ayr Friday and Saturday.
Things will get started at 5:30pm Friday with a presentation by Chief Blue Star Eagle, Sherwyn Zephier, and his wife Estellene on prairie chickens in the Yankton Sioux culture, including an authentic prairie chicken dance. More presentations will be made by Iowa Audubon, Blank Park Zoo and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
On Saturday, prairie chicken viewing will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the Kellerton Grassland Bird Conservation, two miles west of Kellerton on Highway 2, and one mile south. Participants will be able to view prairie chickens on their booming ground. Spotting scopes will be provided and naturalists will be on hand to answer questions. In addition to prairie chickens, an extensive list of grassland nesting birds including upland sandpipers, Henslow’s sparrows and northern harriers will be prevalent.
A second program will be presented by Chief Blue Star Eagle at the site at approximately 8:30 a.m.
A medium-sized grouse, prairie chickens were abundant in tallgrass prairies in the eastern and central United States at the time of European settlement. Their numbers began to decline in the late 1800s because of habitat loss and market hunting. The last known nesting in Iowa occurred in Appanoose County in 1952.
Today, most of greater prairie chickens are found in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, with small populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and North Dakota. The Kellerton population of prairie chickens is a result of reintroduction efforts by the DNR in the 1980s.