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Sutton Avian Research Center recovering two of the most endangered birds in North America

Posted at 7:09 AM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 12:09:36-04

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — Oklahoma is leading the way when it comes to the recovery of two of the most endangered birds in North America.

It’s a major project happening right in our own backyard and changing the ecological outlook across America.

The Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville is making it all possible, and even offering up a unique way to get the public involved. Patrons can help by drinking a beer to save a bird at Wild Brew.

Known for a good time, the event has been around for years, 21 in fact. Beer drinkers alike gather under one roof, taste testing to their heart's desire. But don't let the beer cloud your perception of Wild Brew's purpose.

It’s all about the birds.

Bartlesville is home to the Sutton Avian Research Center. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone.

“People don't realize, and people know about us nationally and internationally, but sometimes when things are happening right in your backyard, you don't think it's a big deal,” Audra Fogle, Director of Development at the Center said.

The facility houses major innovative research.

"The Sutton center is leading the country in the recovery efforts of two of the most endangered birds in North America."

Those birds are the Attwater's Prairie Chicken and Masked Bobwhite.

Don’t count on heading out to meet these birds on a whim. You’ll need to call before heading out to the center, and if you do get to take a tour, be prepared to suit up for the occasion.

Each threshold at the facility houses a foot-bath to disinfect your shoes. Keeping a clean environment for the birds is essential.

Another tip, don’t wear bright colors. Some birds do not take well to the bright displays. And if you do wear a bright color, not to worry. The center does have something for you to cover your wardrobe that is more settling for the birds.

After you’ve suited up, it’s go time.

First, the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, which is housed in an 80-acre facility. The center received it’s first eggs this year and the chicks are doing well. A lot goes into hatching the chicks, too.

“This may look like a wine cooler, but this is actually where we store all of our eggs prior to incubating them,” Bonnie Gibson, lead aviculturalist, said.

The bird is only found in coastal areas of Texas and is essentially being revived at the center. From incubation and hatching chicks, to breeding. If you’re lucky, you could catch the Attwater during mating season, displaying a ritual called “booming.”

"Peak hormonal times are sunrise and sunset,” Gibson said.

During this ritual the male will puff its cheeks and raise the feathers on its head. It will then do a dance while making a “booming” noise while following the hen. Researchers said the male chicken will do this all day.

And they're not the only fowl repopulating this season, the Masked Bobwhite is staying productive as well.

"The birds out in the wild tend to only have a 5 percent survival rate, so we are actually going to be putting out as many as possible, and our goal is about 2,000 birds,” Brittney Tayrien, aviculturalist, said.

The Sutton Center is home to 25 percent of the world’s population. The program started in 2017 and more than 500 birds were released into the wild last year.

Conservationist said they have not seen these birds in the wild for more than 30 years.

The Masked Bobwhite will be released back in its native land in southern Arizona.

For those wondering why bird conservation is so important, researchers want to remind you of one thing, and that is that “a lot of birds are really sensitive compared to other species, and they can be sort of a sign that something is wrong with our environment.”

So, remember, drink a beer, save a bird, and save the environment.

Wild Brew is Aug. 24. You can get ticket information here.