Lesser Prairie Chickens' Numbers Reportedly Declining

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Lesser prairie chickens have been reduced to just a fraction of their once booming population across Kansas and several other states.

The decline has prompted a group of Western conservationists to crank up the pressure on the federal government to provide more protection for the rare bird.

Monday was the 10th anniversary of the lesser prairie chicken's designation as a candidate for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act. WildEarth Guardians used the anniversary to release a report showing the bird's decline over the years in parts of Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

Lesser prairie chickens are round, stocky ground-dwelling birds. Males are famous for courtship displays in which they inflate pouches of skin on the side of their necks.

Conservationists believe the bird's future is bleak unless Fish and Wildlife officials list it as either threatened or endangered.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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