About the Refuge
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest remnants of coastal prairie habitat remaining in southeast Texas.
It is home to one of the last populations of the critically endangered Attwater's prairie-chicken, a ground-dwelling grouse of the coastal prairie ecosystem.
Formerly occupying some six million acres of coastal prairie habitat, the Attwater's prairie-chicken was once one of the most abundant resident birds of the Texas and Louisiana tall grass prairie ecosystem.
The prairies they knew extended along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, north to the Bayou Teche area in Louisiana and inland some 75 miles. Grasses of many species waved in the winds including little bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass.
Acre by acre, coastal prairies diminished as cities and towns sprouted up, industries grew and expanded, and farmers plowed up native grasslands for croplands or tame pasture. Suppressing prairie fires also allowed brush species to invade prairies.
Like fish out of water, the Attwater's prairie-chicken had nowhere to go. By 1919, it disappeared from Louisiana. By 1937, only about 8,700 individuals remained in Texas, signaling the end of hunting for a once common game bird. The bird was listed as endangered in 1967 and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act provided immediate protection for this seriously declining bird.
Presently, less than 200,000 fragmented acres of coastal prairie habitat remain, leaving the birds scattered among two Texas counties. The refuge is one of a handful of national wildlife refuges managed specifically for an endangered species; however, recovery activities for this imperiled bird and management of its declining ecosystem go beyond the refuge's boundaries.