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

Description

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.

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.

Feeding 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.

Feeding Behavior

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

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. 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.

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.

Conservation

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.

Range

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

Listen

#1 lek sounds

Similar Species

adult male, displaying

Greater Prairie-Chicken

At one time, the eerie hollow moaning of male prairie-chickens displaying on their spring "booming grounds" was a common sound across much of central and eastern North America. Today the prairie-chickens are quite uncommon and localized; the race on the Atlantic seaboard, called the Heath Hen, became extinct in 1932. Greater Prairie-Chickens still thrive on a few areas of native grassland in the midwest.

adult male, displaying

Sharp-tailed Grouse

The Sharp-tailed Grouse is typical of regions that have open grassland mixed with groves of trees or shrubs. Closely related to the prairie-chickens, it is found mostly farther north. On winter nights it may roost by burrowing into snowdrifts, where the snow helps insulate it from the cold.

adult male

Greater Sage-Grouse

Well-named, this very large grouse is found nowhere except in sagebrush country of the west. It nests on the ground among the sage, and the leaves of this plant are its staple diet in winter. The Sage Grouse is best known for the spectacular courtship displays of the males: Large numbers (up to 70 or more) will gather in spring on traditional dancing grounds and strut with their chests puffed out and spiky tails spread, hoping to attract females.

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