Prairie chickens were once abundant in North America, with millions clucking and pecking their way across the prairies as the earliest European settlers arrived. But by the 1930s, hunting pressure and habitat loss had driven them almost to extinction. So when the tiny town of Rothsay (population 479) was designated the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota,” the local community decided to put up a statue.
Prairie chickens are quirky birds. Among their peculiarities are their elongated head feathers, which when raised look like ears, and their tendency to dive into deep snow to keep warm in the winter. But by far their most famous trait is their mating ritual, known as booming, during which the males inflate the orange air sacs on the sides of their neck, snap their tails, and make a loud “whoo-whoo” booming sound as they try to impress the ladies while squabbling with rival males.
The statue in Rothsay was unveiled on June 15, 1976, a year after Rothsay was declared (self-proclaimed?) the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.” Designed and built by Art Fosse with help and funding from the local community, it shows a greater prairie chicken in the act of booming, its air sacs inflated and head thrust forward in a display of avian potency.
It also happens to be the largest prairie chicken statue in the world. Whether it actually has any challengers to that particular title is unknown, but perhaps doubtful. Still, at 13 feet high, 18 feet long, and weighing 9,000 pounds, this is one chicken you wouldn’t want to mess with.
Know Before You Go
The World’s Largest Prairie Chicken is located in Rothsay on the west central plains of Minnesota. You’ll find it on I-94 between Fergus Falls and Moorhead, about 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis. There’s a small park with a view of the surrounding plains near the chicken, where people can picnic and read a few signs with information about the area.