Greater Prairie-Chicken

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tympanuchus cupido

Greater Prairie-Chicken

The Greater Prairie-Chicken, also known as the Pinnated Grouse, sometimes called a Boomer, is a large bird in the grouse family. This North American species was once abundant, but has become extremely rare and extirpated over much of its range due to hunting and habitat loss.

Males are stocky birds with rounded wings and short tail. Plumage is brown, heavily barred white overall. The short, rounded tail, rectrices are blackish. Undertail feathers are white, spotted brown. Belly and vent are white.

They have elongated feathers on neck-sides. These blackish feathers are erected during the displays, as two pointed ears. On the head, two yellow-orange combs above the eyes become brighter during the displays, and the small feathers are erected too.

Two naked orange neck patches are situated under the elongated feathers. During the displays, the bird inflates these vocal “sacs” which become very conspicuous. Chin and throat are white.

The bill is brownish. Eyes are brown. Strong legs and feet are yellowish-brown. Legs are feathered.  

Females are slightly different. They have brown plumage extensively barred white, including rectrices and flight feathers. The head ornaments are smaller and paler.

Immatures are similar to the females, with the two outer primaries pointed.

Juveniles have strongly streaked scapulars.

Measures about 16 9 inches in length, with a wingspan of 27.4 to 28.5 inches. They weigh about 904 to 1024 grams.

CALL: The low booming of displaying males is made by air passing through the syrinx and amplified by the inflating air sacs, which are extensions of the esophagus. Displaying males also give "cluck", "whoop", "whine", and "cackle".

Females make a "Kuk" call in interactions with other adults, a "brirrrb" call when gathering their chicks, and a "kwerr" call when warning them about predators.

OTHER SOUNDS: Displaying males rapidly stamp their feet, shake their wings, and fan their tails quickly.

Feeds mainly on plant matter such as leaves, buds, seeds, fruits, and cultivated grains. During the summer, they also consume insects such as grasshoppers.

Open grasslands and oak woodlands. They prefer the scrub oaks mixed with prairies and sandy soils. They need areas of native plants for breeding and roosting.

Restricted range in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota (race pinnatus), and some places in Southeastern Texas (race attwateri).

The nest is situated in tall grass cover. It is bowl-shaped and lined with soft materials such as dry grass, leaves, twigs and feathers. The female lays 4 to 15 eggs (usually 12). Incubation lasts about 23-25 days by female alone.

Greater Prairie-Chicken infographic




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