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Refuge 'Boomer Blind' once again available to public

DETROIT LAKES - A prairie chicken viewing blind is available to the public on Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

From the blind, observers can see the spectacular annual mating ritual of the Greater Prairie Chicken in an activity known as "booming." This primitive ceremony pits bird against bird as male chickens stake out territory to attract hens for mating.

The most dominate and aggressive males will hold the center of the "booming ground," which is called a lek. Younger males on the edge of the lek will challenge the older males.

Males confront each other aggressively, jumping high in the air and striking each other with feet, wings and bill in ritualistic fighting.

Prairie chickens have distinctive pinnae, or long feathers on each side of their neck. While on the booming ground, the males raise these feathers, exposing bright yellow air sacs along the neck. The air sacs expand while making their distinctive low booming sounds.

This is the first prairie chicken lek to develop on Hamden Slough Refuge and is the nearest booming ground to Detroit Lakes. The blind is located 10 miles northwest of Detroit Lakes and can seat four adults.

Wetland manager Scott Kahan said in a press release that the 2008 blind has been moved closer to the dancing ground, which should enhance the wildlife experience.

The public may make a reservation for use of the blind by calling the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District office at 218-847-4431, or e-mailing

Reservations are required, and are free. Those reserving the blind will receive a confirmation letter, information package and map from the Wetland Management District.

The information package will include a list of do's and don'ts for the blind, including entering the blind 55 minutes before sunrise and leaving only after the prairie chickens have left, at approximately 8:30 a.m.

The best time to view booming ground activity is during the month of April.

The prairie chicken's scientific name is tympanuchus cupido, which Kahan said means "drummer of love" and was inspired by the sound of prairie chicken feet dancing rapidly on the booming ground.