As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Research Documents Lesser Prairie Chickens

Mar. 25, 2013 — Texas Tech University scientists have been at the forefront of research on the lesser prairie chicken (LPC), a prairie grouse native to the West Texas landscape, for more than three decades.

Now their research and that of other universities could be square in the middle of an ongoing debate whether to protect the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to hold another public comment period this spring before voting on the issue Sept. 30.

Along with their Texas based studies on breeding, predation, survival and microclimate, Texas Tech researchers also collected more than a decade's worth of data from New Mexico. Additional research out of Oklahoma and Kansas has indicated lesser prairie chickens have an aversion to tall vertical structures, such as wind turbines and power lines, findings that could affect the oil and gas industry as much as farmers and land owners.

Pieces of the puzzle
The researchers' part of this complicated puzzle is to provide information on the status of the species, not comment on policy, said Clint Boal, professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management and assistant leader of the USGS Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He has been involved in LPC research since 2007; prior to that, Dave Haukos, a former Texas Tech professor now at Kansas State, had been conducting studies at Texas Tech since the 1980s.

"We don't know exactly where they (the LPC) were 150 years ago," Boal said. "Our estimates are that the entire area they occupied has decreased during the past 100 years -- both the area occupied and the number of lesser prairie chickens has decreased about 90 percent in the past 100 years."

The bird is now found only in restricted areas of five states in the southern Great Plains: Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

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