The once endangered greater prairie chicken is the birding focus of the aptly named Greater Prairie Chicken Tour in Wray, Colorado. This often overlooked destination on Colorado’s eastern border plays an intimate role in the mating ritual for this Great Plains’ bird. Started in 1994 by a former officer of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the annual Greater Prairie Chicken Tour educates the public about this distinctive member of the Colorado fowl family. Proceeds from the tour go towards supporting the greater prairie chicken population in this area as well as the Wray Museum. The Greater Prairie Chicken Tours are held on weekends in the early part of spring, this year from March 29 through April 21, during the bird’s breeding season.
The Greater Prairie Chicken Tour is actually a two day event. It starts with a mandatory orientation on Friday or Saturday night followed the next day with an excursion to the lek (an assembly area where animals carry on courtship behavior) on Kitzmiller Grazing Grounds. There from the security of a viewing trailer visitors get to watch the greater prairie chickens’ unique mating behavior; males woo would be partners by inflating air sacs on their neck and snapping their tail. After one to two hours of observation guests are shuttled to the Kitzmiller Grazing Association’s main property for a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes.
Reservations are required, and space is limited on this seasonal tour. While the tour is open to all, the confines of the viewing trailer and lack of restrooms at the lek sight make the Greater Prairie Chicken Tour more suitable for a mature birder.