Greater Prairie Chicken, Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus
Date of Issue
May 6, 1980
Series Time Span
1977 - 1981
Perforation or Dimension
Designed by Robert McLellan Bateman.
Agriculture has almost plowed the greater prairie chicken under. Ironically, prairie farming originally helped the bird expand its population and range because the new crops improved its food supply. The golden age of the prairie chicken quickly passed, however. Hunters slaughtered thousands, and as time went by, settlers plowed up more and more of the prairie. Cattle grazed, and often overgrazed, any virgin tracts that remained. The large grassy areas necessary to support the greater prairie chicken thus vanished. Experts feel the bird has disappeared from Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta. In Saskatchewan there have been a few scattered sightings in the past decade, but no one knows whether these are native birds or migrants from the United States. It is unlikely that these few sightings are indicative of a viable breeding population, without which there is a tendency to interbreed with the sharp-tailed grouse, often mistaken for the greater prairie chicken. As for the bird's social habits, flocks form in autumn and break up in spring when the males begin to frequent the breeding ground. There they battle for the best spots, near the centre of the area, and perform courtship displays when the females visit the breeding grounds. Hens lay an average of 11 to 12 eggs. With the advent of hot weather, the flocks of males disband. They and any females not occupied with raising a brood spend the summer idly in the shade. The illustration for the stamp was done by Robert Bateman one of Canada's foremost wildlife artists. He lives near Toronto, but travels the world over in search of subjects for his brush. The stamp shows two male greater prairie chickens in the dry grass of an early prairie spring, in characteristic courtship display before a hen seen in the background.
Canada. Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1980.
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