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April 3, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Chicken? Attwaters vs Downton Abbey

So alike from fluff to feather.

The Attwaters live in the country. The Crawleys’ Downton Abbey is a country estate.

Dowager Countess Violet/Downton Abbey.season 5/MAsterpiece/PBS screenshot.

“You’re chicken.”
“I most certainly am not chicken.”
(Downton Abbey season 5/Masterpiece/PBS screenshot.

Both belong to a disappearing class.

They both dress in keeping with their unique lifestyle. Wearing intricate designs.

There’s formal courtship – an elegant dance – done by those looking to partner.

At times the male members puff up with self-importance. Occasionally both may bellow and even stomp their feet to direct attention.

Each group is delighted whenever there’s a fox hunt.

Carson. Season 5"Downton Abbey"/Masterpiece/ screenshot

There is a proper way for things to be done.
(Season 5.Downton Abbey/Masterpiece/ screenshot)

Both have devoted staff.

The young of each are raised in nurseries, carefully coddled, while given training to prepare them for their place in the world.

Yet the Attwaters and those of Downton Abbey all face a changing world and are doing their best to adapt.

Male Attwater Prairie Chicken/Friends of the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge/ Save Our Chickens)

Is my feather on straight? This formal dance attire is tedious, but traditions must be upheld.(Male Attwater Prairie Chicken/Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge/

And while neither wishes to talk about it, money is a common concern.

Will they be able to hold on to the land?

Will the land produce enough food?

Will the fire ants eat so much of the insects that the little ones starve?

Oh, OK the Crowleys have something other than fire ants eating away at them.

Dowager Countess seated."Downton Abbey"/Masterpiece/ screenshot)

Well now. One does as one must. (Dowager Countess”Downton Abbey”/Masterpiece/ screenshot)

Although, like the aristocrats, the Attwaters are chicken to ask for help even when in dire need.

  • Red Imported Fire Ants have been identified as the greatest threat next to habitat loss to a species that is one of the most endangered birds in North America.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service is using fire-ant bait for ant control on the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, but only part of the 10,000 acres is being treated.
  • The Coastal Prairie Partnership and the Friends of the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge have started a campaign to raise money to treat the rest. (Read more here.) It would also make the hiking trails nicer for visitors, too. End the ouchies!
Attwater Prairie chicken./Halvorsen/USFW/ fed employee/

That better not be a familiar feather in that hat or I’ll grouse about it. (Female Attwater Prairie Chicken/ USPD/

There is something to grouse about. (Both groups do grouse a bit now and then)

Not long ago there were only 44 birds left(2004) with a mere 1% of their coastal habitat remaining. Breeding programs increased the number to over 100 birds (2011) living wild in the preserve.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center hosts some of the breeding chickens in on their campus.

All eggs go to incubators at the Houston Zoo. Then after the chicks grow a bit, they go into chicken halfway houses to get used to the prairie before being turned loose on the preserve’s prairie.

It’s a good plan. I remember the early attempts.

They brought a batch of young well fed chicks back to the NASA campus and released them with great ceremony. Immediately the local hawks swooped in for lunch.

Things are working much better now.

It’s spring and the chicks of Downton and Attwater are both in fine feather.

Nothing cheap about either crowd.

But you’d expect nothing less from fine old families.

With a wing and a prayer this will be a good season for them both.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

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Dowager Countess"Downton Abbey"season 4/Masterpiece/PBS/screenshot)

“I am totally confused as to why anyone would think we have anything at all in common. And I’m not grousing. (Dowager Countess”Downton Abbey”season 4/Masterpiece/ screenshot)




  1. easyweimaraner / Apr 3 2015 1:16 pm

    It’s great that this animals are still there… there are too much species we only know from pictures…my mom said we could watch Downtown Abby on easter again….I’m under my blanket now and my dad looks for a standby ticket to everywhere :o)


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 3:46 pm

      These little birds only live 2 years or so. They can use a little help from their friends…but they were brought up not to beg – not like dovies or pigeons.
      Noooo. Not an Abbey marathon! Molly’s howling from here and scowling not to get any ideas….She’s waving the leash saying “Get down with outside instead.”
      Thanks for giving her the head’s up! Paw waves for a hoppy Easter!


  2. Paul / Apr 3 2015 1:42 pm

    Bravo for the recovering numbers of Attwater. They survived until another spring.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 3:52 pm

      Gads, what a struggle, Paul. In the wild 14 hatch and 2 survive. The TPWL are spreading the efforts among several zoos/breeding facilities and a couple of prairie locations to try and spread the risk of something wiping the total population out. Heard there are over 200 chicks this year hatched so far. Cross those fingers and toes! They only live 2 years or so.
      And that little chicken dance the male Attwaters do – who could not smile over that fancy footwork? No wonder they are becoming a big tourist draw. Hope your weekend is full of flights of fancy. Thanks for stomping around here

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Littlesundog / Apr 3 2015 5:07 pm

    What a lovely post,and somewhat close to my heart. Here in Oklahoma the Lesser Prairie Chicken is making a comeback, and serious efforts are being made by the Oklahoma Dept of Wildlife Conservation to promote conservation measures to help conserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken – particularly in the northwestern part of Oklahoma. Some of these programs are designed to help private landowners develop, preserve, restore, enhance and/or manage wildlife habitat on their land.I am glad to see people getting involved and word getting out about supporting conservation efforts for this beautiful and unusual species. I have never seen one in person, but the video of the mating dance is captivating!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 6:05 pm

      Those little stomping feet. All the pomp and circumstance of artistocrats. No wonder there’s more and more telescopes out there on the prairie. The prairies for so long weren’t recognized as important – not just tally weedy places. Who knew the birds ate so many insects? With more of them maybe swarms could be controlled without so many pesticides. It is nice to see private landowners are getting on board. (They can pay people not to grow crops when it might be better to offer incentives/tax cuts to those who work with state wildlife efforts?)
      Thanks for dancing to the chicken’s song!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robin / Apr 3 2015 7:14 pm

    It’s a beautiful bird. The male’s breeding call reminds me a little of mourning doves, and that sure is some fancy footwork. Good to see the program working. I wouldn’t mind if fire ants were eradicated from the world (we have had encounters), but maybe they serve some useful purpose in their native land so I’ll stick with wishing them gone from where they do not belong.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 7:54 pm

      Locally fire ants seek the driest yard. Such a nuisance. Walking in fields requires so much more care than before the ants spread so widely. These birds must be the fancy footwork performers’ group for birds. What a stage production. No wonder so many set up telescopes hoping to see them. Thanks for scowling along at the ants! (if we all focus energy together like in one of those scifi movies….)


  5. heretherebespiders / Apr 3 2015 7:35 pm

    I can’t abide Downton, sorry! Must be the Irish in me. But the prairie chickens are lovely, and I’m sad to hear fire ants are part of their problem. What eats fire ants?!?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 7:50 pm

      Even fire ants won’t touch Downton! Actually I have some lovely 1905 images of an estate in Ireland and it’s staff. But in an attempt to spread the word about Attwaters and their fundraiser campaign, I ended up using something that might grab people’s attention. Have to say, I think the elderly countess’s quips are funny when I do catch the show. (watching so little these days on tv)
      Sadly fire ants have no predators. I don’t think even the prairie burns kill them as they just go below ground until it’s over. This particular species came in to Miami from South America a long time ago. Apparently these ants also are to blame for the disappearance of horn toads in east TX.
      These are such funny little birds – and that stomping mating dance with the fancy outfits. Quite amazing creatures. Thanks for adding a feather to this nest

      Liked by 1 person

      • heretherebespiders / Apr 3 2015 9:04 pm

        Surely the people where they have been bitten for thousands of years have come up with a solution? Fire ants and sandspurs were the bane of my barefoot childhood.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 3 2015 9:30 pm

          You would have thought so…but the ants held on to their confidence and expanded their range. Ant bait is the only thing that has stopped them so far. But you just have to cover so much of the area and wait…wait…wait for them to eat it and feed it to the queen….fighting a big bed in the front yard now for over a week. Rain just spreads the ants and you have to put out fresh dry dry bait all over again…and wait. Oh, for an ouchie less walk in the yard! (maybe that’s why bunnies hop, do you suppose?)


  6. PiedType / Apr 4 2015 2:00 am

    I’ve never had any interest in Downton dowagers, but those prairie chicks are hot.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 4 2015 3:12 pm

      Flighty chicks worth chasing. (Not sure why but pictures of that character reminds me of them. Always a bit of kilter here. Hope your weekend is hoppy – we’re finally bright skies) Thanks for cackling along


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