Photo: G. Lasley/Vireo

Priority Bird

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Tympanuchus pallidicinctus

Conservation status Has disappeared from most of former range and is probably still declining; considered to be threatened. Biggest problem is conversion of natural prairie to farmland.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Sandhill country, sage and bluestem grass, oak shinnery. Found in sandy short-grass prairie regions with scattered shrubs such as sand sage. Often found around stands of low, scrubby oaks (Havard and Mohr's oak, also called "shin oak"). Regularly comes to agricultural fields to feed on waste grain, but disappears from areas where too much of native prairie is taken over by farmland.
A little smaller and paler than the Greater Prairie-Chicken, this grouse is adapted to arid short-grass regions of the southern Great Plains. At one time it was abundant in this region, but it has declined seriously, and is now an uncommon bird found in a few local concentrations.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground, sometimes above ground in oaks. May move several miles every day from roosting areas to good feeding sites.


Eggs

usually 11-13. Whitish to pale buff, finely speckled with brown and olive. Incubation is by female only, 22-24 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young, but young feed themselves. Young are able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but are not full-grown for several more weeks.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young, but young feed themselves. Young are able to make short flights at age of 1-2 weeks, but are not full-grown for several more weeks.

Diet

Includes seeds, acorns, insects, leaves. Diet varies with season. Eats seeds and leaves of a wide variety of plants, including oak leaves and acorns. May eat much waste grain around agricultural fields in fall and winter. Eats many insects, including grasshoppers and beetles, especially in summer. Also eats some flowers, twigs, oak galls.


Nesting

In spring, at dawn and again in evening, males gather on "booming grounds" and display there to attract females. Booming ground on slight rise or level open ground, with good visibility. In display, male raises feather tufts on neck, stamps feet rapidly while making hollow gobbling sounds; may leap in the air with loud cackles. Female visits booming ground, mates with one of the males. Nest site is on ground, usually under a shrub or clump of grass. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression lined with a few bits of grass, weeds.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

No regular migration, but some may move many miles between summer and winter ranges.

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Migration

No regular migration, but some may move many miles between summer and winter ranges.

Songs and Calls
Various cackling and clucking notes; male gives booming call during courtship.