Greater Prairie-Chicken

Greater Prairie-Chicken (Displaying Male)

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Greater Prairie-Chicken Male

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Greater Prairie-Chicken Female

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Prairie Chicken

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Greater Prairie Chicken

Photo of male greater prairie chicken
Tympanuchus cupido
Phasianidae (pheasants) in the order Galliformes

Adults are barred with brown, tan, and rust colors throughout and are similar in size to a small domestic chicken. The tail is short and rounded at the tip. There are tufts of long feathers on the sides of the neck; these tufts are longer in males. Orange air sacs and eyebrows are conspicuous on males in the spring.

Length: 17 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and conservation: 
Missouri’s remaining prairie chickens live on native prairies and in properly managed non-native grasslands. They require wide open sweeps of permanent, diverse grassland. Loss of suitable habitat is one of the largest reasons for this species’ decline. Without substantial increases in suitable habitat, the species, which once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in our state, will likely soon be extirpated. Prairie conservation is the key to their survival.
Prairie-chickens eat insects, forb seeds, and greens, as well as some grains. Broods use legume hayfields, soybean fields, and weedy pastures heavily during summer.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Native prairie and some grasslands in the Osage Plains and Glaciated Plains; small numbers survive in isolated populations.
Endangered within Missouri. Rare permanent resident. Non-game. Fewer than 500 birds remain in isolated populations in southwest, northwest and north-central Missouri.
Life cycle: 
Breeding season lasts from March through May. Cocks visit booming grounds (leks), where they dance, call, and fight among themselves. Hens visit the lek and select the most fit mate; mating occurs on the lek during April. Nests are simple and hidden in grasses; clutches usually contain 12–13 eggs. Incubation lasts about 24 days. Chicks remain with the hen for 8–10 weeks before the brood breaks up. Brood survival is very low.
Human connections: 
The prairie-chicken was once a prized game bird in Missouri. Its colorful habits, however, keep it popular among wildlife enthusiasts. It is up to humans to preserve the prairie habitats that these magnificent birds require for survival.
Ecosystem connections: 
Prairie-chickens are indicators of healthy grassland ecosystems and are part of the unique, interconnected community of plants and animals in Missouri prairies. Management for prairie-chickens helps many other species as well.
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