Sometimes, the most interesting conservation stories at SeaWorld are the ones that take place behind-the-scenes. One of the most interesting is our efforts to help a native Texas species, the Attwater's Prairie Chicken.
The Attwater's Prairie Chicken is one of the most critically endangered species of birds in Texas. It is estimated that there are only about 75 birds remaining in the natural environment. This bird once thrived in the coastal prairies from Corpus Christi to the Mississippi river.
SeaWorld San Antonio has been working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other facilities (Houston Zoo, Fossil Rim, San Antonio Zoo, Abilene Zoo, and Caldwell Zoo ) to help bring this species off the endangered species list. Behind-the-scenes, the chickens live in private pens where they nest, have chicks, and if possible, are released back to the Texas wild.
The APC breeding season is from March through June. At this time the males will do a booming display to attract the females. After breading, the staff watches closely to monitor for eggs. On average, each female will lay 15 to 20 eggs in a clutch.
Once all the chicks in each facility have fledged, which means they are able to live independently, we have a meeting with all the facilities to determine how many and which birds will be released. There are three different protected wildlife reserves where the chickens are released. These are protected areas by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Working to help conserve such a vulnerable species can be very rewarding. To be able to see an egg hatch in a controlled environment is amazing, but then to see that chick that you have cared for three months get released into the wild is breathtaking.
The number of the Atwater Prairie Chickens have increased this year alone from 50 to 75 out in the natural environment, with hopes of one day not having to worry the species survival.
SeaWorld is also involved in doing research with collecting semen. It is important to ensure that all eggs are fertile and that no egg is wasted.
The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund supports Attwater's Prairie Chicken research and conservation projects in Texas. For more information on conservation efforts, please visit us here.