Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR
Southwest Region, July 31, 2007
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The month of July was met with exciting news concerning Attwater's prairie chicken (APC) recovery efforts.  At least 14 APC chicks were confirmed to have survived to 6-weeks of age on the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (APC NWR).  This number does not include 3 APC broods (with 24 chicks when released) whose hens were killed or lost their radio collar, making it difficult to confirm the exact number of chick's surviving to 6-weeks of age.  Chances are that there were more than 14 chicks produced to 6-weeks of age this year.  Extremely wet weather (almost 8" received in July) hampered efforts to gather this data this year.  Unfortunately, 5 chicks have since died, due to predation.  An additional 2 chicks survived at the Texas City Prairie Preserve (TCPP)(owned by the Nature Conservancy) this year, where a second population of APCs exists. 

Although these numbers are low, they represent the most number of chicks confirmed surviving to 6-weeks of age in any given year during the last decade on APC NWR.  A total of 7 chicks survived in 2004, and 12 chicks in 2006.  The 6-week age marker is about the time chicks can live on their own without the hen.  All of these chicks were produced by hens that had been released from the captive breeding program in previous years and through some very labor intensive efforts by APC refuge staff, Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns, and volunteers (from within the Service, and private individuals).  Fifteen Service employees (from ES, Refuges, RO, and NCTC) answered a call for help in early spring to  collect insects used to feed the APC chicks.  In addition, a high school group and Master Naturalist Group also helped.  Their assistance was vital to this year's success and very much appreciated!    

At a meeting of all APC breeding facilities in mid-July, 197 Attwater's were slated for release this summer.  Although the number of birds actually released will probably be somewhat less, this group will still probably represent the largest release of birds since the APC release program started in 1996!  Although a record 293 chicks were produced in captivity this year, more birds were held back to "grow" the captive flock, adding 18 additional breeding pairs for the 2008 breeding season.  Efforts to release birds earlier this year also helped relieve "crowding" at a couple breeding facilities, thus helping to reduce the threat of potential disease issues and allowing the birds more time to get acclimated in the wild prior to the fall arrival of hawks.  At the end of July, 50 birds were in acclimation pens at APC NWR, and 20 at TCPP awaiting release.  A total of 29 birds were released at APC NWR on July 17 with only 4 mortalities by the end of the month.  Plans are to continue to release birds at the APC NWR, TCPP, and, for the first time, on private lands in Goliad County.

This year's Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program came to an end on July 27.  This year's enrollees focused mostly on building APC acclimation pens for the release birds.  This group also has the distinction of attaining the best attendance record of any YCC group for the last 11 years.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov
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