As the country’s prairie shrinks — U.S. farmers converted 1.3 million acres of it into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, according to a recent study — the birds who depend on it are increasingly imperiled. Scientists and federal officials see these species — which include the greater and lesser prairie-chicken, as well as several species of sage grouse — as the best indicator of how the prairie is faring. Now, ranchers and environmentalists have joined forces to save the prairie and the birds nesting there.
A male Attwater’s prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri) does its mating dance, known as booming, early in the morning at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge near Eagle Lake, Tex. Noppadol Paothong Buy Photo