Auto Tour Stop 19

STOP 19: SPRING DANCE

The brush prairie, or barrens habitat, found on the property is home to the increasingly rare sharp-tailed grouse. Once abundant across four million acres of barrens habitat in Wisconsin, today the birds exist on perhaps 50,000 acres and at low densities. The sharp-tailed grouse have a breeding behavior that has attracted visitors to places such as the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area (NBWA) each spring to observe their ritualized display. The male birds “dance” on a site called a lek to attract, and hopefully mate with, female grouse.

A lek is frequently a small hill with low vegetation that allows the males to be easily seen or heard by females. It also provides a vantage point from which the grouse can more easily spot predators attracted to their displays. Each male stakes out a spot on the lek where it dances and “coos.” The females watch the proceedings and eventually select a prime male for breeding. Mature or dominant males tend to select sites near the center of the lek and are more successful at attracting mates.

The path in front of you will take you to one of our historical leks. In the spring a blind is erected so visitors may observe this interesting behavior. Reservations are required, so call (715) 635-4091 to see the action this spring.