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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

Lesser Prairie-Chicken -- Tympanuchus pallidicinctus

RANGE: Resident locally from southeastern Colorado, south-central Kansas, and western Oklahoma to extreme eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

STATUS: Uncommon and local.

HABITAT: Inhabits arid natural grasslands of the southern Great Plains that are interspersed with shrubs 3 feet tall or less. In Colorado, occupies plant communities dominated by sand sagebrush, little bluestem, switchgrass, sideoats grama, and red threeawn. In Oklahoma and New Mexico, occupies a shinnery oak vegetation type. Needs small trees or shrubs such as shin oak, sagebrush, skunkbrush, sand plum, Havard oak, sand sagebrush, and fragrant sumac for shade during warm summer months. In spring and fall males congregate on display grounds which are relatively void of vegetation and have good visibility. Tall, perennial grasses are used for loafing in winter.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shin oak or sand sagebrush range lands.

NEST: Nests on the ground in well-drained sites within 1/2 mile of display grounds. Builds nests that are well concealed from above in ungrazed meadows, natural prairie, or between grass clumps from previous years' growth, generally in tall, dense, perennial grasses.

FOOD: Primarily insectivorous during summer months. Consumes plant foods during the remainder of the year; leaf galls, catkins, leaves and acorns of shin oak can make up 70 percent of the seasonal diet; leaf and flower buds of fragrant sumac and the leaves of sand sagebrush are also important foods.

REFERENCES: Copelin 1963; Doerr and Guthery 1980; Hoffman 1963; Johnsgard 1975a, 1983a; Jones 1963; Taylor and Guthery 1980.

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