Being a member of the grouse family, the lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a small prairie chicken. This grouse is suited to arid shortgrass areas of the southern great plains and is slightly paler and smaller than the greater prairie chicken. The lesser prairie chickens forage by walking slowly through grasslands and brush, shinnery oak, pecking at seeds and grains, and hunting insects. They will sometimes climb into vegetation in search of fruit, catkins, and buds. They spend nearly all their time on the ground, but they can fly long distances between roosting and feeding areas.
Lesser prairie chickens were once widespread in this area, but their population has since declined significantly, and they are now a rare bird found in a few isolated populations. It's a medium-sized to big bird with white and brown stripes. They are slightly smaller and paler than the larger prairie chicken. The IUCN has classified them as Vulnerable because of their limited and patchy distribution and due to their habitat destruction. There is proof that global warming has been negatively impacting the sagebrush ecosystem by drastically decreasing its size. Subfossil remains have been discovered in Rocky Arroyo in the Guadalupe Mountains, which is beyond the current range of the species, but where their habitat existed in the less wet conditions of the last ice age. Range contraction is thought to have occurred around 8000 BC. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology does the major research work on these two prairie chicken species.
If this factual and interesting dissection of the lesser prairie chicken fascinates you, do also try and read our other facts about the moorhen and red kite.
Lesser prairie chickens are a member of the grouse family and come under the category of birds. These birds are close relatives to the greater prairie chicken.
What class of animal does a lesser prairie chicken belong to?
The lesser prairie chickens belong to the category of aves.
How many lesser prairie chickens are there in the world?
The best evidence we currently have on the population of the lesser prairie chickens is around 17,616 birds. This species population declined to be about half of what it originally was in only the timespan of a year. Conservation of the population and preserving their habitat is extremely important for the survival of their species.
Where does a lesser prairie chicken live?
Lesser prairie chicken habitat is primarily the sand sagebrush and the shinnery oak. Shinery oak is a deciduous, low-growing, thicket-forming shrub from Texas and New Mexico to isolated populations in areas like Kansas.
What is a lesser prairie chicken's habitat?
Shinnery oak, sand sagebrush, and bluestem grasses are noteworthy plants in shortgrass prairies on sandy soils and also this species preferred habitat. The lesser prairie chicken range is quite limited due to the habitat preference of this species. The prairies and sandhills of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Llano Estacado, and Colorado are home to around half of the current population, while the other half exists in Kansas alone.
Who do lesser prairie chickens live with?
A group of this species are called a little house. This species does not have the biggest of a group structure, but rather a lekking system which shows male dominance over areas in order to garner female attention.
How long does a lesser prairie chicken live?
Smaller prairie chickens have a short life expectancy and around 60% of the population dies each year. Up to 65% of these birds do not survive their first year. Only a small percentage of smaller prairie chickens live to their estimated maximum age of five years. Predators, as well as running into fences and power lines, contribute to their high death rate.
How do they reproduce?
These North American birds usually only breed once a year, but if they are unsuccessful the first time these lesser prairie chickens try again from April to May. The lekking habit of smaller prairie chickens is well-known. The male lesser prairie chickens congregate in areas with increased visibility in the spring and fall to compete for a position within the lek. Semi-prone posture, wings spread slightly to the sides, erect pinnae and tail, and inflated air sacs are all part of aggressive displays. Occasionally, these exhibitions may result in physical altercations. Dominant males are more likely to be found in the center. After mating, the females move about a mile away from the booming grounds to start nesting. Females prefer nesting sites with vegetation of at least 9 in (22.8 cm) tall. Breeding display areas are normally close to the nesting and brood-rearing habitat.
The eggs laid per season range from eight to 14. The time it takes for eggs to hatch varies between 22 and 28 days. The average age of a fledging is about two weeks, and the timeframe for achieving independence is somewhere between 12 and 15 weeks.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of the lesser prairie chicken is Vulnerable, and their population is constantly decreasing. Habitat loss, fragmentation, as well as climate change pose a threat to the lesser prairie chicken. Oil and gas construction, cropland conversion, cattle grazing, highways and power lines have all resulted in this habitat loss and fragmentation. These animals are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Fun Facts
What do lesser prairie chickens look like?
Lesser prairie chickens are flecked brown, rufous, and white on the tops of their bodies, while below they are barred brown and white. Males have bright orange combs over their eyes and red-orange air sacs in their necks. These chickens are round-winged and stocky with round and short tails.
How cute are they?
These are amongst the cutest of the hens. This bird is very famous amongst bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The bird guide to spotting this beautiful bird is quite popular and they are an important addition to North American wildlife.
How do they communicate?
Males flaunt visual displays in order to attract their mates while lifting their ears' feathers, inflating the red sacs on their throat and flaring their eyes all whilst being aggressive towards the other males. They also make special noises to attract females. These birds use their senses of sight and sound to communicate and perceive their surroundings. The females usually get attracted by the strong and dominating males. The females of this species might get attracted to a single dominant rooster as per many anecdotal wildlife resources.
How big is a lesser prairie chicken?
Lesser prairie chickens are somewhere between 14.96–16.14 in (38–41 cm) long with an average wingspan of 24.80 in (63 cm). This makes them about 20 times smaller than the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), which is the largest living bird on Earth.
How high can a lesser prairie chicken fly?
Lesser prairie chickens do fly a reasonable distance, but they are not the best of flyers. There is not currently much evidence around how high a lesser prairie chicken can fly.
How much does a lesser prairie chicken weigh?
The weight of a lesser prairie chicken ranges somewhere between 1.3-1.7 lb (22.1–28.7 oz).
What are the male and female names of the species?
A rooster, also known as a cock, is a male adult bird. Hens refer to the adult female bird.
What would you call a baby lesser prairie chicken?
The baby lesser prairie chicken is called a chick.
What do they eat?
Lesser prairie chickens consume crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles as well as buds, leaves, seeds, catkins, acorns, apples, wild buckwheat, cultivated grains such as soy, sunflower, insect galls, and sorghum.
Are they aggressive?
To create territories within the lek, lesser prairie males become aggressive toward one another. Ritual postures, short flying, pursuing other males, and fights are all aggressive habits. Violence is used by dominant males and females to maintain their dominance.
Would they make a good pet?
These species are already Vulnerable and trying to keep one as a pet would further damage their species, so it is not recommended.
Did you know...
These chickens get their water from the food they consume. They don't need surface water but might drink if water is in the vicinity.
Why are lesser prairie chickens known as 'boomers'?
The male prairie chicken is referred to as a boomer. During mating season, the bird makes a loud booming sound while they dance to maintain their dominance over other males. The birds congregate on a flat piece of prairie land known as a lek, more widely known as the booming grounds. This process is very important to garner female attention. Ultimately it decides which dominant male will get to mate with the female.
What are a lesser prairie chicken's predators?
Foxes, coyotes, badgers, and a variety of raptors, particularly northern harriers, golden eagles, and great horned owls, are all predators of smaller prairie chickens. Egg predators such as foxes, coyotes, skunks, ground squirrels, ravens, and even snakes can attack many smaller prairie chicken nests.
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