Prairie Chicken Festival set for April 11-13

PNT Staff Report

Once a year, the small eastern New Mexico community of Milnesand hosts the annual High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival, drawing spectators from near and far, to watch the mating dance of the lesser prairie chicken.

Registration is now being taken for the seventh annual High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival which is slated for April 11-13. The three-day event centers around the lesser prairie chicken, an icon of the Southern Great Plains, as it congregates on traditional breeding grounds called “leks.,” according to a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish news release.

Events will include birdwatching, talks with ranchers and biologists working to conserve prairie chickens, and education about the Southern Great Plains ecosystem through tours of prairie dog ecology, archeology, plant identification and playa lakes. In addition, field tours will be conducted on plants, soils and land use and there will be guided bird tours. Information will also be offered on photo tips, reptiles and amphibians and grassland habitat and restoration.

Every year, prior to the big event, a statewide poster contest is held. This year’s winner is Albuquerque artist, Joyce McCarson, who was selected for her artwork of the lesser prairie chicken depicted with vegetation native to its habitat in southeastern New Mexico.

Registration is open to the first 100 participants who register and pay an entry fee or $90 a person. Registration is limited due to the sensitivity of the lesser prairie chicken during the breeding season. The fee covers all field trips, five meals and a commemorative poster.

Registration forms and more information about the festival is available on the Department’s Web site at www.wildlife.state.nm.us. To register, send a $90 check made out to the 7th Annual High Plains Prairie-Chicken Festival, #1 Pueblo Point, Clovis, NM 88101. No refunds will be available after April 5.

The event is made possible through the sponsorship of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, Grasslans Charitable Foundation and the community of Milnesand. For more information, contact Tish McDaniel, 762-6997 or chickenfestival@yahoo.com