Bob, Edge and all others,

First this is such a great group of birders and conservationists. 

Bob Fisher- Yes, you pretty much have it right. But there have been many areas that have been changed within a couple of miles and even little modifications have occurred on Taberville itself. I specifically recall in the 1980's the plowing of the area to the east along the "back road" at Taberville. Little woody edges are now gone and during the 1970's when there were still hundreds of birds at Taberville, there were small trees around.

The overall picture is not good. Phil Wire put it very well in his post. Greater Prairie Chicken is a very adaptable species that at times shows positive correlation in terms of human effects and its population. However, Something that we (as a group of humans inhabiting Missouri) are doing is not working for them.

Certainly a vast unbroken landscape is one possible key. But, Trees play some role in winter survival. (In the subtle climate difference of Northern Mo-perhaps there are subtle needs we have not been able to figure out yet) There are numerous examples of birds feeding in trees in winter and spring. My work in Minnesota confirms much of what Charles Schwartz found in Sullivan county. Sullivan county never looked like Kansas and never should.... (not a slur on Jayhawks). The landscape and natural features created a series of very long and somewhat broad ridges with north-south flowing watercourses in between. In spite of what others may say, the evidence shows clearly that the greatest numbers of Greater Prairie Chickens  ever occurring in Missouri were in this specific area. Two ridges -one near Unionville in Putnam county held a sizeable population. But the key area was on a very long ridge centered south of Green city in the Mystic area extending into Linn County.

This rather broad ridge from the Iowa border south, held at least 3,325 birds according to the Schwartz study. To my knowledge, there has never been a documented area of greater abundance in Missouri.

The Predator issue perhaps needs some action. But we all know about the reluctance to apply cowbird solutions. There are now recent studies showing reduction in cowbird really helps out breeding black-capped vireos enormously. How many other warblers could use a boost? Do prairie chickens rate higher? We shall see.

There are probably NOT more predators in total (but perhaps there are- an Increase in overall predator numbers requires an overall increase in prey species, and not everything can eat White-tailed Deer.  Too bad.   :) ), but the prime nesting areas for GPCH are certainly more limited and thus every scrap of nesting cover is more easily patrolled -increasing the rate of nest failure. I see this as the big problem in relation to predators. The habitat is reduced to the point where predator foraging is very successful.

MDC has done a pretty good job in defining problems, and none of my posts are meant to cast blame on any sector- I seek positive solutions. But what we are doing is NOT working... and if we continue to do the same thing year after year, expecting different results then who are the fools?

While some will get all bent out of shape on genetics, It is likely that many of the birds currently inhabiting the more western areas carry many of the genes which originated in Missouri populations. The whole thing comes down to genetic diversity and there are still -range wide -a lot of chickens. The problem is that we are now approaching a bottleneck. 

This is the time where any combination of factors- disease, predation, agricultural practice of the month club, massive plowing of CRP grasslands, unknown toxic vectors, etc (and I am certainly leaving things out) can cause a rapid ripple or spiral downward in numbers. We have seen several other species which require large numbers of birds to excite mating patterns suddenly wink out. Look at the rapid decline in Passenger Pigeon.

This is a classic problem in fragmentation and isolated populations.

Now we need partnerships and specific step by step plan to restore GPCH to a sustainable level. Missouri is Absolutely Critical to Maintain and Restore a population in the overall picture. MDC can not do it alone. TNC can not do it alone. It will take everyone-- including private and public partnerships. Many organizations have made wonderful progress in this arena and will be called upon now to do even better.

There are plans available. However, In Missouri, the previous model put forth by PIF has not worked. ( Sorry- Partners in Flight)

Vodenhal et al (2009) have a bigger picture paper including new modeling ideas including the entire Great Plains. I do not have URL's available. But the point is that any model needs funding and public support. Like I said earlier, MDC personnel at the ground level are part of the solution not the problem. While there may have been errors in the past, they are not important today. What we need are determined efforts moving forward to implement solutions today for tomorrow.

This is why I saw a film reaching to hundreds of thousands of folks as a part of the solution. Each of you are also a part of that solution- so carry on. 
We must think bigger than previously. There are many of us working every day -all day to help these birds. 

I hope i can put a plug in here for the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Please consider joining this group.

All my Best,


Timothy R. Barksdale
Birdman Productions L.L.C.
& MundoAveLoco! L.L.C.
P.O. Box 1124
65 Mountain View Dr.
Choteau, MT 59422

The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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