Prairie Chicken #4: Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Nesting

The Attwater’s Prairie Chickens begin nesting in March.  The hens make a depression in the ground filled with grass and feathers under the cover of tall grass clumps to create their nests.  Hens typically begin laying their eggs in late March.

The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken eggs are light tan to light green in color.   The average hen lays a clutch of about 12 eggs.  Once all of the eggs are laid, the hen will begin incubating the eggs.  The incubation period is about 26 days long.  The nests often fall victim to predators such as snakes, fire ants, and hawks; heavy rains can also pose a threat to the success of a nest.  The chicks hatch covered in bright yellow feathers with patches of brown and black.  In the wild, chicks will stay with the hen for about six weeks. 

Attwater's Prairie Chicken Egg
Attwater's Prairie Chicken Egg

At the Houston Zoo, we collect the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken eggs from our captive flock of birds for artificial incubation and hand rearing of the chicks.  This allows us to better protect the eggs from damage and increases the chances of an egg hatching successfully.  Our first Attwater’s Prairie Chicken egg of the 2009 breeding season was laid on March 25, 2009. The hens from our breeding flock at NASA produced 163 eggs in 2009.

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Post #3 was on 3/16/2009

Year of the Tiger: Extinct Subspecies

Part 7 of our Tiger profile

Three Extinct Subspecies – yes, large mammals which have disappeared forever in the last 50 years.

Bali Tiger Panthera tigris balica, Javan Tiger Panthera tigris sondaica and the Caspian Tiger Panthera tigris virgata.

The Bali Tiger was the first Tiger to be lost in the last half-century, disappearing in the 1940’s. As one could imagine, tigers living on a small island, such as Bali, inhabitated by humans leads to direct conflict and for the most part tigers were considered pests and hunted to extinction. Before we go pointing fingers – North Americans did their best to rid ourselves of wilves, mountain lions and other predators in the late 1800’s and through the 1900’s. Humans clearly have a propensity not to want to share our land with an animal that can eat us – even if the Bali Tiger was reprotedly the smallest of all tigers, it was a tiger and could eat your livestock nonetheless.

The Caspian Tiger was the next to go in the 1970’s. Unlike the isolated isalnd species, the Caspian was found across Turkey and Iran (south and west of of the Caspian Sea) and west through Central Asia into the Takla Makan desert of Xinjiang, China. Hunting, habitat loss and conversion to agriculture were the leading factors in the loss of this tiger. Save the Tiger Fund notes tigers in Central Asia were not usually regarded as a threat to human life and were known to co-exist with human habitation, even close to major towns such as Tashkent. But the spread of settlement, especially Russian immigration into Central Asia from the late nineteenth century, was to lead to their demise. As the riverside vegetation was cleared for cultivation, and rivers tapped for irrigation water, notably for the great expansion in cotton growing from the 1930s, tigers lost their habitat and prey. In Russian Central Asia in the early decades of the twentieth century military detachments were used to exterminate the tigers, as well as leopards and wolves, ahead of human settlement. Herdsmen regarded tigers as a threat to their livestock, including camels, horses and sheep. As their fine pelts were valuable they were killed by strychnine poison and steel traps, and large bounties were paid for their destruction.

The Javan Tiger was the latest to go, in the late 70’s-1980’s. A tiger went extinct in the 1980’s – ~25 years ago, large mammal extinction should not occur in this day and age, yet they do, and will continue to do so. Another island species which was both hunted and lst it’s prey base due to loss of habitat. Hopefully we have learned our lessons with island species and can protect the remaining Sumatran Tigers left on that island before there populations drops below one which is genetically viable.

 

Lecture tomorrow night!

Photo credit Cristina Mittermeir
Photo credit Cristina Mittermeir

 

Who is not drawn to spectacular imagery? Wildlife, people, landscapes; a good photo is captivating and, many times, offers you an opportunity to learn more about the subject.

On March 25th, the Houston Zoo will be welcoming world class photographer, and Director of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Cristina Mittermeir as part of our Call of the Wild Speaker Series. Come out to enjoy an evening of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, breathtaking photographs and first-hand stories from conservationists on the frontlines in the battle to help save the world’s wildlife and habitats. Just click on the Call of the Wild link above for ticket information. While you are there, pick up Cristina’s new book The Wealth of Nature on pre-order and pick it up at the lecture.

The International League of Conservation Photographers mission is mission is to translate conservation science into compelling visual messages targeted to specific audiences. We work with leading scientists, policy makers, government leaders and conservation groups to produce the highest-quality documentary images of both the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the challenges facing it.

You may have caught Joel Sartore or Kevin Schafer at one of our previous speaker events – both ILCP members. If you missed them, pop on over to their websites and prepare to be amazed. Another ILCP member, Frans Lanting will be our guest speaker in October 2010.

The Houston Zoo partners with these individuals and organizations because we believe, as ILCP notes, that awe-inspiring photography is a powerful force for the environment. Our goal is to help our visitors enjoy the natural world which surrounds us, whether through a quite stroll through the zoo, or through the lenses of our colleagues.

Photo credit Cristina Mittermeir
Photo credit Cristina Mittermeir
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