CyPix: The Vulnerable Greater Prairie Chicken

Today (March 3rd) is World Wildlife Day – a day in which we can “celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora, recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and populations across the globe, and raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.” (UN General Assembly)

March 3rd was selected in honor of the adoption of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The goal of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the species’ survival.

Greater Prairie Chicken sighted in Cherokee County, Iowa in 1994. (MS 166, box 9)

Greater Prairie Chicken sighted in Cherokee County, Iowa, in 1994. (MS 166, box 9)

This is an image of a Greater Prairie Chicken collected by the Iowa Ornithologists Union (IOU) Records Committee. The males of the species are known as “boomers” because of the booming call they make. The birds have an area, known as a lek, where the males gather to dance and “boom.” The collection (MS 166) documents the committee’s work in acquiring reports of bird sightings around the state and assessing the validity of the submitter’s identification of the species. Six Greater Prairie Chicken sightings were reported to the IOU in 1994. Prior to these sightings, only 10 or so Greater Prairie Chickens had been seen since 1960.

Greater Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) were once abundant in Iowa, but per the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) their numbers declined due to habitat loss and market hunting. Should you see one, the DNR would like to hear from you!  The Greater Prairie Chicken is listed in CITES Appendix II – “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.”  It is listed as “vulnerable” in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Aside from the IOU records (MS 166), Special Collections has many collections with ornithology content. We also have collections on natural history and the environment. You can also search for “birds” here to check for words in our manuscript finding aids. The papers of Walter M. Rosene, Sr., one of the founders of the IOU, are also available (MS 589) and we’ve posted previously on Frederick Leopold’s papers (MS 113).

The next time you’re outside, see if you can spot some local wildlife. If being indoors is more to your liking, come on over to Special Collections where you can view field notes, reports, and images of birds and other wildlife.

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