Lesser Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus pallidicinctus

adult male, displaying
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult female
Greg Lasley/VIREO
Lesser Prairie-Chicken


16" (41 cm). A chicken-like bird, barred above and below with grayish brown, with short black tail. Courting male has long black feathers on sides of neck that form erect "horns"; inflates reddish-purple air sacs during courtship display. Horns of female shorter. Greater Prairie-Chicken of plains farther east is similar but larger and more strongly barred, with yellow-orange air sacs.


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


#1 lek sounds


Dry grasslands with shrubs and short trees.


Resident in southern Colorado and Kansas, south locally in western Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern New Mexico.


The Lesser Prairie-Chicken likes short-grass prairies where stands of scrub oaks are common. Here males gather and engage in communal courtship displays in which the birds dance about with the colorful air sacs on their necks inflated, uttering low cooing or "booming" notes. This species replaces the Greater Prairie-Chicken in higher, drier grasslands.


11-13 creamy or buff-colored eggs in a grass-lined depression, usually under a low bush or shrub.

Similar Species

adult male, displaying

Greater Prairie-Chicken

16-18" (41-46 cm). A chicken-like bird, heavily barred above and below with grayish brown. Has 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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