A bleak fu­ture

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

Sadly, num­bers of Lesser Prairie Chick­ens in Colorado are now down to about 40 in­di­vid­u­als, and look­ing ahead the fu­ture seems to be bleak for them. Yet again this is a species that is cat­e­gorised as Vul­ner­a­ble as it is also faced with prob­lems of a lim­ited gene pool, while num­bers have been re­duced by habi­tat loss from lo­cal over­graz­ing and the in­va­sion of steppe by woody veg­e­ta­tion. Pes­ti­cide and her­bi­cide use has also caused prob­lems with mor­tal­ity. There have been at­tempts to rein­tro­duce birds to for­mer haunts, but these have failed. I spent a day trav­el­ling west to­wards the city of Pue­blo, and then on­wards to the town of Gun­ni­son the fol­low­ing day. Apart from en­joy­ing good bird­ing along the way I had another early morn­ing ap­point­ment – this time with the Gun­ni­son Sage Grouse. Rang­ing from 44-51 cm, this bird is larger than the prairie-chick­ens, but is a lot smaller than its close rel­a­tive the Sage Grouse – from which it evolved as a sep­a­rate species. The plumage is grey­ish-brown, with black cen­tral un­der­parts. The tail on the male is long, with stiff pointed feath­ers with prom­i­nent yel­low­ish-white bars. This species is clas­si­fied as En­dan­gered – just one stage be­low the Crit­i­cal level that is ap­plied to the very rarest of birds. It has a very small and se­verely frag­mented range, with a to­tal pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mated at about 1,700 in­di­vid­u­als, and def­i­nitely de­clin­ing. The big­gest chal­lenge that it suf­fers from is habi­tat degra­da­tion and frag­men­ta­tion. Added to this prob­lem is the fact that gas White-tailed Ptarmi­gan is about as white as any grouse can be

For many peo­ple, the best of the North Amer­i­can grouse is the White-tailed Ptarmi­gan, with its pure white plumage

SNOW WHITE Greater Sage Grouse

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