Greater Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus cupido

adult male, displaying
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult female
Richard & Susan Day/VIREO
adult male
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
Greater Prairie-Chicken


16-18" (41-46 cm). A chicken-like bird, heavily barred above and below with grayish brown. Has short black tail. Male has yellow-orange air sacs inflated during courtship display, and long black feathers on sides of neck, erected into "horns" during courtship; horns of female are shorter. See Lesser Prairie-Chicken.


Hollow "booming" call during display; also cackles and clucks.


lek sounds
flight & calls


Undisturbed tall-grass prairie.


Resident locally in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan, and from Manitoba south through Great Plains to Oklahoma; Attwater's found on coastal prairies of Texas.


Where they still survive, Greater Prairie-Chickens perform striking courtship dances on communal display grounds: the males strut about and stamp their feet, with "horns" erect and yellow-orange sacs of skin inflated on the sides of the neck, meanwhile uttering a deep cooing call that may carry a mile. They leap and whirl in the air, and threaten each other by short runs with tail raised, head down, and horns erect.


8-12 olive eggs, finely spotted and blotched with brown, in a well-concealed, grass-lined depression in the ground.

Similar Species

adult male, displaying

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

16" (41 cm). A chicken-like bird, barred above and below with grayish brown, with short black tail.

adult male, displaying

Sharp-tailed Grouse

15-20" (38-51 cm). Resembles, but slightly smaller than, female pheasant. Mottled with buff, slightly paler below. Tail short and pointed, with white outer tail feathers.

adult male

Greater Sage-Grouse

Male, 26-30" (66-76 cm); female, 22-23" (56-58 cm). Both sexes mottled gray-brown above with black belly.


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