|"Praire Chicken", 29x24", Prismacolor on paper|
The Greater Prairie Chicken, sometimes called a boomer, is a member of the grouse family. Almost extinct in the 1930s, today these incredible birds remain threatened by habitat loss and loss of genetic variance and are extremely rare or extinct over much of its range.
The male variety boasts prominent feathers called pinnae on their necks, a bright yellow eye comb, and a gular air sack on the side of their neck that is orange to yellow in color during the breeding season. During mating season, males inflate this air sack causing a booming noise, raise their pinnae feathers, and enlarge their eye comb to attract females for breeding. The largest remaining populations are in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Of the three subspecies, Attwater's prairie hen is native to coastal Texas and Louisiana, survives only in small portions of southeast Texas, and is listed as endangered in the US. Another subspecies the heath hen which was historically found along the Atlantic coast is extinct.
My goal in this series of endangered species, created in the mid-80s, was to capture the souls and spirits of our mute neighbors with whom we share the planet. I was captivated and haunted by the frank eyes of all of these creatures, so human in their longing and need, pleading silently for their futures and ultimate survival.
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