Wisconsin's Prairie Chickens
Every spring volunteers from across
the state and the country come to the Buena Vista Grassland to aid in the spring
prairie chicken census. The sunrise, the booming males, the fresh air, and the
endless horizons are the rewards to those who participate.
About the Census
Approximately 12,000 acres of land on the
Buena Vista marsh are presently being managed by the Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources to provide wide horizons and grasslands for prairie chickens.
Every spring the birds of Buena Vista must be counted to keep track of the
population trends and evaluate management effectiveness.
The census consists of finding all booming
grounds and counting the attending males. This provides an index to population
trends that is quite reliable because of the routine behavior of the males and
their affinity to specific booming grounds. If the total number of males
increases, we assume that the entire population has increased
Many of the grounds are monitored by
volunteers that drive from ground to ground counting early in the morning. Not
all grounds are in good view of the roads, and many must be counted by
volunteers in blinds on the booming grounds. Every April these blinds must be
filled by volunteers from the public. Viewing the chickens booming is a
wonderful experience not soon forgotten, and, at the same time, it provides aid
in the tracking of this threatened species.
Reservations will be taken for observing prairie chickens on the Buena
Vista Marsh for the month of April. This is an early morning event. You will meet
a guide at a designated
location and follow them via car to the site
approximately 2 hours before sunrise. At each site the
guide will give you instructions and data sheets. Each booming ground is a short
walk from the road. There are two blinds at each site and each blind holds four
people. Each blind is enclosed with benches inside. There is a fee to defray the cost of
maintaining blinds and guiding
The cost (per person)
for viewing the prairie chickens is $15 for adults and $10 for kids under 18,
students enrolled in college, or seniors over 55.
Public viewing in 2020 will not be available due to Covid-19.
We hope to be able to offer the viewing again next year.