Lesser Prairie Chicken


Photo Credit:

Lesser prairie-chicken: Copyrighted photo of Jerod Foster

The lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a ground nesting bird that lives in open prairies, especially where shinnery oak or sand sagebrush grow. About half of the known lesser prairie chicken population of the southern plains lives in western Kansas. Although this iconic prairie species is native and had previously been common in portions of five states (Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma & Kansas), its population has been steadily declining since the 1800s.

This decline has become more dramatic recently due to a combination of drought, habitat loss caused by human activities, and now the threat of mindless legislation. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently assigned the lesser prairie-chicken to the “Threatened” category in an attempt to reverse this decline and prevent extinction. It also entered into a partnership with the five states to limit adverse regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses.

The male shown here has yellow-orange neck sacs that inflate with air typical of courtship behavior and a bright yellow eye-comb above the eye.