Greater Prairie Chicken

Greater Prairie Chicken

Pinnated grouse, Boomer

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Tympanuchus cupido
Population size
700,000
Life Span
2-3 yrs
WEIGHT
700-1200 g
LENGTH
43 cm

Greater prairie chickens are large stocky grouse native to North America. Adult males have orange comb-like feathers over their eyes and dark, elongated head feathers that can be raised or lain along the neck. They also possess a circular, un-feathered neck patch that can be inflated while displaying; this, like their comb feathers, is also orange. As with many other bird species, the adult females have shorter head feathers and also lack the male's yellow comb and orange neck patch.

Di

Diurnal

He

Herbivore

Fo

Folivore

Gr

Granivore

Fr

Frugivore

Te

Terrestrial

Pr

Precocial

Ov

Oviparous

Te

Territorial

Po

Polygyny

So

Social

Fl

Flocking

No

Not a migrant

G

starts with

U.

U.S. States Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Greater prairie chickens are found in the United States and restricted to Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and southeastern Texas. They prefer undisturbed prairie and were originally found in tallgrass prairies and oak savanna. They can also tolerate agricultural land mixed with prairie.

Greater Prairie Chicken habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Greater prairie chickens do not migrate and spend their life within a small area where they feed, roost, and breed. They are territorial birds and males often defend their booming grounds. These booming grounds are the area in which they perform their displays in hopes of attracting females. Outside of the breeding season prairie chicks gather in big flocks. They are most active in the morning and late afternoon spending time walking about pecking on seeds on the ground and gleaning insects. They sometimes feed in trees where they pick fruits and berries. Greater prairie chicks are strong fliers and usually make short flies between roosting and feeding areas. To communicate with each other they use grunts, cackles, hisses, and make booming calls.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Greater prairie chickens are herbivores (folivores, granivores, frugivores). Their diet consists primarily of leaves, seeds, and fruit, but during the summer they also eat insects and green plants.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
late March-April
INCUBATION PERIOD
23-24 days
BABY CARRYING
5-17 eggs
INDEPENDENT AGE
10-12 weeks
FEMALE NAME
hen
MALE NAME
cock
BABY NAME
chick

Greater prairie chickens are polygynous. The one or two most dominant males usually obtain most of the mating opportunities. The breeding season usually starts in late March and lasts throughout April. During this time the males establish booming sites where they display for the females. After mating, the females move about one mile (1.6 km) from the booming grounds and begin to build their nests. They lay between 5 and 17 eggs per clutch and the eggs take between 23 and 24 days to hatch. The young are raised by the female and fledge in 1 to 4 weeks. They become completely independent at 10-12 weeks and reach reproductive maturity by age one.

Population

Population threats

Greater prairie chickens were once abundant, but have become extremely rare and extirpated over much of their range due to hunting and habitat loss. These birds also suffer from natural threats such as spring rains and droughts. Drenching rains can wreak havoc on their chicks, while drought can destroy food and also make it difficult for the chicks to survive. Another serious problem facing prairie chickens is competition with the ring-necked pheasants. Pheasants lay their eggs in prairie-chicken nests. The pheasant eggs hatch first; this causes the prairie chickens to leave the nest thinking that the young have hatched. In reality, the eggs did not hatch and the young usually die because the mother is not there to incubate the eggs.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Greater prairie chicken is around 700,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Greater prairie chickens are not afraid of severe winter weather. When the snow is thick they "dive" into the snow to keep warm.
  • Greater prairie chickens are famous for their mating ritual called booming. Males make a loud “booming” noise inflating air sacs located on the side of their neck and snapping their tails. They display for almost two months and their booming vocalizations can be heard half a mile away.
  • A group of prairie chickens is called a "little house" and a "pack".
  • Greater prairie chickens are very good climbers. They may climb into trees to eat leaves and buds, especially in winter when snow covers all food on the ground.
  • Greater prairie chickens may also communicate using non-vocal sounds which they make with the wings, tail, or bill.

References

1. Greater Prairie Chicken on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_prairie_chicken
2. Greater Prairie Chicken on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22679514/92817099
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/685653

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About