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County
Colorado
Region
Gulf Coast
Nearby
Parks
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge
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Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge Information:  
This 10,528 acre National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the habitat of a remnant population of Atwater’s Prairie Chickens (grouse). Habitat consists of native prairies, croplands, marshes, ponds, Coushatta Creek, woodlots and riparian areas. The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken prefers a habitat of undisturbed tall prairie grass. They can tolerate some agricultural land mixed with prairie, but for every increase in the percentage of agricultural lands in the mix, there is a decrease in the population of the prairie chickens. They do not migrate. They eat a diet of seeds and fruit, but during the summer they will also eat insects and green plants. These birds were once widespread across the oak savanna and tall grass prairies, but due to over hunting and increased farming, they became almost extinct in the 1930s. They now live on small parcels of managed prairie land. The population is estimated to be 459,000. During the spring mating season males gather on the “booming” grounds to perform an elaborate courtship ritual. They inflate their yellow air sacs and emit a strange booming sound across the sea of grasses. Snow does not bother the prairie chickens; they dive into it to keep warm. Their problems begin when spring rains drench their chicks, and when draughts destroy their chick’s food source. Studies have shown that the chickens avoid nesting or rearing their chicks within a quarter mile of power lines, and within a third of a mile of improved roads. They also avoid agricultural land, rural farms, and communication towers. The Houston Zoo runs a captive prairie chicken breeding program which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2006, the zoo moved its captive colony from a noisy section of the Houston Zoo to a more quiet area at the Johnson Space Center, which resulted in a record production of eggs and chicks in the next full breeding season. These numbers are now increasing annually. Two other protected program sites are the Texas City Prairie Preserve, and a program recently started on private land near Goliad where 30 captive-bred juveniles were released into the wild. From Eagle Lake, take FM 3013 northeast for 6.5 miles.
 
Visitor Center:
Over 100 taxidermy bird mounts on are on display. Prairie grass and wildflower displays are located around the flag pole. The Center offers videos for viewing, presents special programs and events, and provides information about the refuge maintenance programs, wildlife and plants. The Center is open Monday-Friday during regular business hours. Facilities & Location Map
 
NWR Activities Overview: 
The refuge offers two hour guided van tours of the refuge on the first Saturday of each month. A 5 mile self-guided auto tour through the wetlands and prairie is open sunrise to sunset. Waterfowl viewing is outstanding during the fall and winter months. During the summer and fall months watch for wood storks standing in shallow ponds. Two hiking trails, the 1.5 mile Pipit Trail, and the 2 mile Sycamore Trail, provide abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography; early mornings and late evenings are best. Spring and fall bring abundant wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, and bluebonnets. March to early summer offers the best wildflower viewing. You may hike the auto tour route, but watch for venomous snakes, mosquitoes, alligators, and fire ants. Camping, fires, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, swimming and canoeing are prohibited on the refuge.
 
Volunteers– Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge: 
The refuge needs volunteers to help with fence line repairs and brush clearing, acclimation pen construction, data gathering for reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and birds, organizing slides, office filing, acid rain monitoring, radio telemetry tracking, developing display and school programs, and for visitor services. Volunteers are most needed during the summer, spring and fall months. When the chicks hatch, volunteers are needed to collect bugs to feed the hens and chicks.
 
Wildlife& Nature Trails: 
The five mile auto tour loop passes through the prairie and along Coushatta Creek. The 1.5 mile Pipit Trail, and the 2 mile Sycamore Trail pass through native coastal prairie and riparian areas. The Sycamore Trail features benches in quiet areas near Coushatta Creek. The refuge supports reptiles and approximately 50 species of mammals including bobcats, coyotes, armadillos, bison, squirrels, American alligators, turtles, bullfrogs, and upland chorus frogs. Most reptiles are harmless, but please avoid and respect the venomous Texas Coral snake, the Western Cottonmouth, and the Southern Copperhead snake.
 
Birding:
In addition to the Attwater’s Prairie Chickens, over 250 other species of birds of the Central Flyway are common on the refuge including, White-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Crested Caracaras, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Dickcissel, Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Egret, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Wood Storks, Sandhill Cranes, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-0billed Curlew, Anhingas, Geese, Le Conte’s Sparrows, Sprague’s Pipits, Loggerhead Shrikes, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Most species of waterfowl common to the flyway may be seen here. Watch for Crested Caracaras on the loop road. Ferruginous Hawks appear during the winter and Swainson’s Hawks in the spring and summer months.
 
Birding - Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Central Gulf Coast Region:
Rio Colorado Loop:  Eagle Lake, Bay City, Wadsworth, Matagorda, Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, El Campo, Pierce, Glen Flora, Egypt, Buckeye, Markham, Wharton
Texas Birds Checklist
West Gulf Coastal Plain (Upper Coast) Bird Checklist
Brazos Bend State Park Bird Checklist, Needville
Brazos Bend State Park Butterfly Checklist, Needville 
 
Annual Attwater Prairie Chicken Booming-N-Blooming Festival, Mid-Apr:
This festival is held the second weekend in April unless it is an Easter Weekend, in which case it will be held the prior weekend. Activities include early morning tours with the hopes of seeing the Attwater Chickens. Saturday and Sunday morning tours start at 7am and continue until the birds leave the “booming” ground, usually after 1 to 2 hours. No reservations are needed; bring binoculars. Saturday and Sunday guided van tours of the refuge start at 10:30am, 12 noon, and 1:30pm; each tour is approximately 2 hours long. Bird walking tours occur each day at 8:45am and 10:30am. Saturday and Sunday van tours to Teal Marsh and Pintail Marsh start at 10:45am, and 12:15pm. For those interested in plants, walking tours start at 1pm and 2:30 pm both days. All tours depart from the Visitor’s Center. Visitors may also drive the self-guided 5 mile auto tour route and view the exhibits at the Visitor’s Center. (979) 234-3021. From Eagle Lake, take FM 3013 northeast for 6.5 miles.
 
Directions:  
From Eagle Lake, take FM 3013 northeast for 6.5 miles.Map