Starting on March 16th the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism will conduct aerial surveys of Prairie Chicken habitat. The purpose of the counts to multifaceted. Firstly, the surveys will look to get a solid count on the current population numbers of the Prairie Chickens in the state. Secondly, the survey hopes to help identify quality habitat as well as areas that could be improved.
The counts will continue from now until sometime in early May. This timeframe was chosen because it coincides with the bird’s lekking period. The lekking period refers to when the birds are displaying on leks or booming grounds as apart of their breeding displays. This makes the birds more visible as they are out about for the breeding and display season.
The counts will be conducted via helicopter. The Department hopes that the counts will tell them how successfully their current management plan is working. The Lesser Prairie Chicken is considered vulnerable and is susceptible to habitat loss. The large majority of the population is centered around western Kansas and Oklahoma. There are a few small populations in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado as well.
Several state agencies and conservationists are worried that as the sagebrush ecosystem continues to shrink the Prairie Chicken populations will shrink as well. These birds are uniquely built for life on the sagebrush ecosystem in the plains. With the loss of this type of habitat, the birds have few alternatives to turn to.