It's no surprise to birders that many grassland game birds, including sage-grouse and prairie-chickens, are facing a critical loss of habitat, but what does come as a surprise is help from an unlikely source - the same ranchers who used to advocate more agricultural land at the birds' expense. According to the Washington Post, more ranchers are realizing the economic boon birds can provide when they open their land - preserving it in a prairie state - to visiting birders eager to view leks and see the outrageous courtship dances of many of these species.
Avitourism is growing in many areas, and as communities learn how attractive birding can be for visitors - who pay to stay in hotels, eat meals, register for festivals, hire guides, etc. - more birding festivals and local tour companies are being organized. In April alone there are more than 30 festivals available, with three dedicated just to popular game birds.
Does your area host any birding festivals? Share them in the comments so they can be added to the birding festival directories!
Photo © Greg Kramos / USFWS