After being nearly devastated by Hurricane Harvey, the annual census of Attwater prairie chickens shows the endangered birds made a remarkable rebound in the last year.
The bird count was done at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge near Eagle Lake and at the Goliad prairie. Staff at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge counted a total of 26 males this year, for an estimate of 52 birds on the refuge (using a 1:1 ratio of males to females) up from just 12 a year ago.
The Nature Conservancy staff on the Goliad prairie estimate at least 25 males with a possibility of as many as 35. Using the conservative estimate of 25 males, that makes 50 total birds on the Goliad prairie for this year, up from only 14 a year ago.
In addition to the birds in the wild, at the end of 2018 there were 69 birds at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, 44 birds at the Houston Zoo, and 16 birds at the Caldwell Zoo for a total of 129 in captivity (compared to 117 a year ago).
People wanting to see the birds at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge will have an opportunity April 13-14 during the 25th annual Booming-N-Blooming festival. The event includes prairie chicken viewing tours, refuge auto tour and walking trails, special guest presentation, Native American dancers, native plant walking tour, and much more.
Visitors can experience the courtship dance of the Attwater’s prairie chicken on their “booming” grounds from a viewing platform. Transportation to the viewing platform will begin at 7 a.m. and will continue until the birds leave the “booming” ground (usually 1-2 hours). No reservations needed and visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scope. All transportation will depart from the refuge headquarters/visitor center.
To get to the refuge, of west on Highway 90A from Rosenberg to Eagle Lake. Take FM 3013 northeast for 6.5 miles and look for the large brown sign on the side of the highway. There is no public access from Interstate 10.
For more information, call 979-234-3021 or visit www.fws.gov/refuge/attwater_prairie_chicken.