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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about Attwater’s Prairie Chickens, a species native to southeastern Texas, whose spring mating behavior is pretty dramatic – both visually and aurally.


CURWOOD: Love can make you cuckoo. Just ask an Attwater's Prairie Chicken. Groups of male Prairie Chickens meet to dance every April in areas in southeastern Texas called leks. They point their tails and head feathers skyward, stamp their feet, and twirl around. And then the males inflate their bright orange featherless neck pouches and let loose with a booming mating call, guaranteed to make the hens -- or if you prefer, the chicks -- swoon.

(Booming calls)

CURWOOD: These avian lonely hearts were recorded at the Houston Zoo. The few remaining wild Attwater's Prairie Chickens live on the Texas coastal prairie. Grazed grasslands are their preferred habitat. For years they depended on bison to trim the grasses. But the prairie is pretty near gone now, and the number of wild Attwater's Prairie Chickens has dwindled to about 50. Captive breeding programs are trying to stabilize the surviving population. If you've been captivated by the call of this lovelorn bird, you can head each April to Eagle Lake, Texas, home of the annual Attwater's Prairie Chicken Festival. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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