Why did the Prairie Chicken cross the road? ....to get away from the photographer! If you offered me a $1000 to take you to the Refuge so you could take photo of an Attwater's Prairie Chicken and you would only pay if you got the photo....I probably would not collect it.
These are few and far between and an endangered species.
I had been to Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge for years before I ever saw one. This one of two were in the road last November and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Plump, chickenlike bird found in grasslands. Body and wings entirely barred brown with paler buffy throat. In spring, males gather at display site and dance to attract females: look for them hunched over with earlike feathers protruding from the head and yellowish-orange skin exposed on the neck. Inconspicuous and difficult to find away from display sites. Separate from Lesser Prairie-Chicken by range; averages slightly darker and larger than Lesser. Darker than Sharp-tailed Grouse with more heavily barred sides and belly; rounded tail.
Few performances in the bird world are more memorable than the dawn display of Greater Prairie-Chickens at their booming ground, or lek—the traditional spot where males dance, call, and try to impress females with their vigor. When displaying, the males erect earlike plumes on the head and blow up bright orange air sacs on the neck, transforming themselves from brownish chickenlike birds into brightly colored performers, all the while drumming with their feet and producing whooping and cackling calls.
Some booming grounds or leks have been used for more than a century and are considered “ancestral,” whereas others, more recently established, are called “satellite” areas. When prairie-chicken populations are low, most males assemble at ancestral areas, but during periods of higher populations the satellite areas may contain many males (especially younger ones).
Males’ territories within the booming ground appear to be oriented according to marks in the terrain such as depressions, drainages, fences, cow droppings, and wheel tracks. Modifying these features can result in males modifying the shapes of their territories.
The extinct Heath Hen was a subspecies (cupido) of Greater Prairie-Chicken that inhabited the Eastern Seaboard from Maryland to Massachusetts in the colonial era. Excessive hunting of this bird led to restrictions as early as 1791, but even so declines continued. The last Heath Hen died on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1932.
Photographed in DeWitte County in the spring of 2018. I was with Jeff Rohling and we were searching for spring wildflower landscapes when I saw a hen in an open field next to the road. We stopped putting a large bush between us and the bird. The gobbler then appeared strutting around the bush and gobbling his head off. We quickly shot him with our 500mm lenses, and he never felt any pain.
The abundant numbers of Wild Turkey is due to conservation efforts like the National Wild Turkey Foundation, a hunters' organization that funds conservation projects.
Most North American kids learn turkey identification early, by tracing outlines of their hands to make Thanksgiving cards. These big, spectacular birds are an increasingly common sight the rest of the year, too, as flocks stride around woods and clearings like miniature dinosaurs. Courting males puff themselves into feathery balls and fill the air with exuberant gobbling. The Wild Turkey’s popularity at the table led to a drastic decline in numbers, but they have recovered and now occur in every state except Alaska.
The Wild Turkey and the Muscovy Duck are the only two domesticated birds native to the New World.
In the early 1500s, European explorers brought home Wild Turkeys from Mexico, where native people had domesticated the birds centuries earlier. Turkeys quickly became popular on European menus thanks to their large size and rich taste from their diet of wild nuts. Later, when English colonists settled on the Atlantic Coast, they brought domesticated turkeys with them.
The English name of the bird may be a holdover from early shipping routes that passed through the country of Turkey on their way to delivering the birds to European markets.
Male Wild Turkeys provide no parental care. Newly hatched chicks follow the female, who feeds them for a few days until they learn to find food on their own. As the chicks grow, they band into groups composed of several hens and their broods. Winter groups sometimes exceed 200 turkeys.
As Wild Turkey numbers dwindled through the early twentieth century, people began to look for ways to reintroduce this valuable game bird. Initially they tried releasing farm turkeys into the wild but those birds didn’t survive. In the 1940s, people began catching wild birds and transporting them to other areas. Such transplantations allowed Wild Turkeys to spread to all of the lower 48 states (plus Hawaii) and parts of southern Canada.
Because of their large size, compact bones, and long-standing popularity as a dinner item, turkeys have a better known fossil record than most other birds. Turkey fossils have been unearthed across the southern United States and Mexico, some of them dating from more than 5 million years ago.
There are four sub-races of Wild Turkey; Eastern, Florida, Rio Grande, and Rocky Mountain.
Photographed in Rio Bentsen State Park
Almost always heard before it is seen, the Plain Chachalaca is sort of a long-tailed, tropical chicken that lives in the treetops. These sandy brown and gray birds walk along tree branches to eat flowers, buds, fruits, and insects. They’re locally fairly common in brushy and thorny forests along streams in the Rio Grande Valley and south into Central America. Though their plumage is subtle, their raucous, rhythmic morning chorus is anything but—a classic sound of the Tamaulipan brushlands that livens up any outing.
Although most birds in the Galliformes—such as quail, grouse, turkeys, and pheasants—are ground dwellers, Plain Chachalacas are at home in trees. Their young can cling to branches with both wings and feet as soon as they are dry after hatching.
Pairs of Plain Chachalacas give their loud calls in the early morning and early evening. Chachalacas also call when a storm is approaching or there is some other change in the weather.
The Plain Chachalaca is the only member of the family of guans, curassows, and chachalacas to reach the United States. The family contains approximately 50 species, ranging from Mexico to southern South America, many of which are endangered because of hunting.