Thursday, March 13, 2008

Give it up for the Lesser Prairie Chickens

I have a special place in my heart for Lesser Prairie Chickens. They were my first real job working with birds. This was actually not so long ago, three year this month to be exact. To say the least it was exciting and I will never forget it. From that time on I have been on the soap box here and there, giving a presentation or standing up for them at a meeting, but I never felt like it was enough. Honestly, I'm not sure if I ever really reached that many people with all of it. Well, finally a little public involvement and some much needed attention is just around the corner.

Oh, if your not up on the whole Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPCH) scoop, I can say a quick word or two about the situation. Basically LPCH's are a non-migratory game bird(currently no open season in Oklahoma) , grouse to be exact (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). They are cousin to the late Heath Hen (Extinct), and those Attwater's Prairie Chickens that are just hanging on by a thread(critically endangered), as well as the more numerous, but still not safe Greater Prairie Chicken. The LPCH is fairing no better in the world currently than the Heath Hen did not so many (less than 100) years ago. Constricted to pockets in NW Oklahoma,the Texas panhandle, east central New Mexico, and western Kansas. There numbers have dropped dramatically, and I think most avian biologist would agree that these birds are one of the most critically in danger species in North America. Most of the blame for the drop in there numbers can be linked to habitat fragmentation of one kind or another. So without going any further in depth, there you have it. If you want more check out the Sutton Center's website at, I'll leave it at that before I put my foot in my mouth!
So back to this whole public involvement thing. The Oklahoma Important Bird Areas Program and the Oklahoma Audubon Council are organizing a Boots, Buckets, and Chickens weekend! Sounds fun doesn't it? Basically the weekend of April 5th we will be holding the event at the Selman Ranch in Harper County. There will be Prairie Chickens, good eats, some volunteer habitat improvement opportunities, and who knows what else could happen. Oh, a bird tour Sunday morning by yours truly. So if your interested check out the link to the right(Oklahoma Audubon Council) , there you will find a RSVP form (very important so we now what to expect), as well as some more tidbits about the weekend. Listen, this is a great opportunity to really see the ground zero in the fight to preserve this species (don't get me wrong there are a lot of people involved in this effort, it just sound more intense if you call it ground zero), (well now I've totally blown the whole mystery around it!), if your not able to come, please find a way to support this cause and these birds, they really are truly unique.

Thanks to Steve Metz once again for his wonderful photographs of the LPCHs!


TR Ryan said...

Arrg, sounds like a great weekend - I've always wanted to see Sue's place, see the LPC's and hear more about the threat of wind energy. Wish I was in town.

Eric Beck said...

Hey, don't sweat it. You should try to get up there sometime soon anyway. Have you ever seen a LPCH?

Texas Travelers said...

I agree about the "chicken name".

I've been on the lek during booming for both the Attwater and Greater. It was hair-raising.

I like your style of writing and your blog.

Troy in windy Ft. Worth

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric, nice blog. Before you go changing the common name you might want to recheck the scientific name. Ha! Don't want to give anyone the wrong idea... the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is a full species and the scientific name is Tympanuchus pallidicinctus. T. cupido is the Greater Prairie-Chicken that it was split from quite a while ago. Plus, based on recent research, it appears they have been isolated from Greaters for some time. Check it out Johnson 2008 (J Heredity - online early edition). Christy