Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 21

species' extinction - had low levels of
mitochondrial genetic variation when
compared with contemporary populations
of prairie-chickens.
This same problem has been observed
in Pennsylvania woodrat colonies in
recent years. Their lack of genetic diversity can leave them more susceptible to
everything life throws at them, particularly
where habitat degradation - often forest
succession - limits colony growth.

BIRD LORE

The word heath was used in England
to describe an area of open, uncultivated
land. And in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey, heath hens typically were found
inhabiting pine and scrub-oak barrens -
the same easy-to-clear lands coveted by
colonists.
The birds consequently lost habitat as
civilization extended itself, particularly
north along the Delaware River.
It didn't help that heath hens were
somewhat indifferent to people, who saw
them more as a poor man's chicken than
unique birds.
Weighing about 3 pounds, the heath
hen had shades of ruffed grouse and ringnecked pheasant hen in its appearance.

Described as "chicken-shaped," the
bird had a uniformly mottled-brown body,
a grouse-like tail, and short, rounded
wings. It didn't fly much or well.
Males had yellow eyebrows, pinnae
feathers rising above the head and throatsacks that, during courtship, were inflated.
Females were smaller with less-distinctive feathering.
Found mostly from Massachusetts to
Virginia, the heath hen inhabited eastern
Pennsylvania, specifically in Wayne,
Monroe, Carbon, Northampton, Lehigh
and Schuylkill counties. It was found
along the Delaware River, south into
Montgomery and Chester counties, and
ranged west into Lancaster and maybe
York counties, according to a heath hen
account by Edward D. Fingerhood in the
1992 Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania.
Famous American naturalists William
Bartrum and Benjamin Smith Barton and
ornithologist Alexander Wilson all wrote
about heath hens in eastern Pennsylvania.
But there almost always was a touch of
mystery in words written about the bird, or
its absence in published colonial accounts
about wildlife.
Part of that stems from naturalists and
early Americans calling the birds everything from heath hens, pinnated grouse
and mountain cocks to pheasants, heathbirds and grouse.
Even Wilson complained in the "pinnated grous" account of his early-1800s
American Ornithology series about the
absence of information about these birds.
"It is somewhat extraordinary that
John J. Audubon's early 1800s painting
"Prairie Chicken," left, in his The Birds of
America provided a lasting image of heath
hens, which were thought at the time to
be the same bird. The first drawing the
naturalist sold also was of a heath hen.

AUGUST 2018

21



Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 5
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 21
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 25
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 26
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 27
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover4
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