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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Greater Prairie-Chicken -- Tympanuchus cupido
(includes Attwater's Prairie-Chicken)

RANGE: Resident locally from eastern North Dakota, northwestern and central Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and northern Michigan south to northeastern Colorado, Kansas, southern and northeastern Oklahoma, central Missouri, and southern Illinois; also in southeastern Texas.

STATUS: Endangered in Texas; uncommon and local; range and population reduced because of agriculture, burning, mowing, overgrazing, oil development, drainage, shooting, and urban development.

HABITAT: Inhabits stands of natural tall or midgrass prairie, especially where natural grasslands are interspersed with moderate amounts of small-grain cropland. Males favor slightly elevated open areas of short grassland for display grounds, which are approximately 1 acre in size and surrounded by dense grasses with some brush cover. Moderately tall vegetation is used for night roosting, and edges of tallgrass and midgrass for day resting. Requires a stable source of food rather than protective cover or shelter for winter.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shortgrass and tallgrass prairies.

NEST: Nests in a slight depression on the ground in a well-drained site that provides good concealment from above, within 1/2 mile of display grounds, in ungrazed meadows, natural prairie stands, or in clumps of prairie grasses, usually near an open area. Chooses brood habitat that is usually heavier than nesting habitat, in old fields, native grasses, or in cultivated pastures, where shade and a plentiful supply of insects and succulent plants are available.

FOOD: Consumes mostly insects from May to October, especially grasshoppers. Consumes primarily plant foods, including fruits, leaves, flowers, acorns, seeds of grasses and weeds, and grains the rest of the year.

REFERENCES: Johnsgard 1975a, 1983a, Jones 1963, Mackenzie 1977, Terres 1980.

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