Friday, May 15, 2009

Joe Neal discusses Osage burrowing prairie crayfish and the diet of American bitterns

I found an American Bittern at Stump Prairie (near Siloam Springs)
during the Benton County IMBD May 9; was there today and saw it again.
In the last year, Woolsey Wet Prairie at Fayetteville has also
supported American Bittern(s). Both places are seasonally wet
prairies. They are not wetlands like those on the Gulf Coast, but
rather low ground rich in clay that holds water during wet seasons. So
what's attractive to the bitterns here? I suspect it may be the dense
populations of Osage burrowing crayfish (Procambarus liberorum). These
are terrestrial creatures that survive in the high water tables
associated with seasonal wetlands. Their mud chimneys are abundant in
both places. This crawfish species is endemic to a handful of counties
& can be surprisingly abundant, including in many places where,
botanically-speaking, the Tallgrass Prairies disappeared long ago. I
looked up this possible link in the Birds of North America series &
found that crawfish are important in the bittern's diet. Supporting
crawfish-friendly habitats is probably important to this and other
bird species. Maybe another piece of the big picture.
JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas
The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron with a stout body and a neck, short legs, and a white neck. The upperside of the bird is brown finely speckled with black. The undersides are heavily streaked with brown and white. There is a long black patch that extends from below the eye down the side of the neck.

No comments:

Post a Comment