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Our Town McCook: Birding Hotspot

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 10:17 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2022 at 10:21 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you enjoy nature, and especially birdwatching, then you’ll definitely want to consider a trip to the community of McCook.

We recently visited with McCook and Red Willow County Visitors Bureau executive director Carol Schlegel about the opportunities. “We offer tours during the spring, in March and April, to take people out to see the greater prairie chickens do their mating dance,” Schlegel said. “There is a window of time when the males come out on display, and the nice thing about this is the chickens come back to the same location every year. We have viewing blinds set up where we provide transportation for people out to the blinds. We get there before sun up, we get situated, and wait for the birds to come in. They’ve never disappointed us, because they are a very dependable bird.”

The prairie chickens are known for their unique sounds. “They make this booming noise,” Schlegel said. “They have these orange air sacks that they puff up on their necks. When they expel air, they make a sound kind of like blowing over the top of a soda bottle. They also do a cackling noise, and a calling noise.”

“We’ve been offering tours for nine years,” Schlegel said. “Our location is on private property. I have a land owner who enjoys sharing his birds with people. We take people out, and we’ve had people from 47 states and 10 foreign countries come to see this little two pound bird that lives here all year round.”

Efforts are underway to promote more bird tourism. “We started the Red Willow County Birding Challenge last year,” Schlegel said. “It involves a person going around Red Willow County, and identifying 50 birds. You can do it anytime from January 1st to December 31st. Tell us where you saw them, and what bird. Then you turn them in, and you receive a patch for having completed the challenge, and we have a different patch every year. The idea is there are more birds here than just prairie chickens, and they are here all year long. There are a lot of migratory birds that come through our area, too.”

This birding challenge is yet another way of promoting tourism, and getting people to visit Red Willow County and especially “Our Town McCook.” “Birders like to travel, and they like to make lists,” Schlegel said. “This is another way of getting them more used to southwest Nebraska, and the birding they can do here.”

If you would like to know more about the prairie chicken tours or the Red Willow County Birding Challenge, go to visitmccook.com.

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