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As to Edge's point about Ruffed Grouse, aren't they birds of transitional 
forest -- i.e. scrub land which has not reached full maturity? Could it be 
that the areas where they were introduced grew to maturity and became less 
friendly to them?

A similar process is happening at Weston Bend S.P. The brush land is growing 
up. The Bell's Vireos, which used to be all over Weston Bend, have gone. 
There used to be several Chats there. I did not get one there this year. I'm 
waiting for the growth to be too thick for the Blue-winged Warblers, which 
will probably happen soon.

As for Prairie Chickens, I have been watching them decline in my area for 20 
years. 20 years ago, I would see as many as 25 birds in a day in or near the 
reclaimed strip mine area south of Montrose, and I even remember seeing one 
bird north of the power plant. I have not seen one there in many years. 
Instead, the grassland has all been put to other uses -- for the most part 
pasture or crop land. I do recall suggesting to someone at MDC 20 years ago 
that they should buy the reclaimed strip lands to save the chickens. 
(However, the coal company may already have planted the wrong kind of grass 
there. Exotic fescues, etc. are apparently too dense for chicks to move 
rapidly enough through them.)

I'm not sure why the Taberville flock is declining, but it seems to be doing 
it. I do believe MDC has enlarged the Taberville Prairie somewhat. Yet there 
is still pasture land nearby that could be acquired. I'd hate to see the 
Taberville flock disappear.

As for predators, I'd like to see someone who has studied the issue respond 
to Edge's point. All of the predators she mentions have always been around. 
The question is whether there are more of them now than there used to be 
and/or whether habitat change has made the chickens more vulnerable to them. 
I'm guessing that the prairie supports the same density of predators that it 
always did. However, if it is small enough, a larger population around the 
periphery could lead to more predators venturing out into the prairie, etc.

It does not take much increase in mortality to reduce a population over 
time. Perhaps just a slight increase in predation could be making the 
difference.


Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Fall Meeting: Sept. 26-28, 2008 at Osage Beach, MO
More information: http://www.mobirds.org