Index of Species Information

WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Snyder, S. A. 1992. Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : TYMP TYCU TYPA COMMON NAMES : prairie-chickens greater prairie-chicken lesser prairie-chicken Attwater's prairie-chicken heath hen TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for the greater prairie-chicken is Tympanuchus cupido (Linnaeus). The scientific name for the lesser prairie-chicken is Tympanuchus pallidicinctus (Ridgway). Some authors consider the lesser prairie-chicken a subspecies of the greater prairie- chicken, while other authors consider them distinct species [1,11]. This report will cover both and treat them as separate species. The typical subspecies of greater prairie-chicken is extinct. There are two extant subspecies [1,11]: Tympanuchus cupido ssp. pinnatus (Brewster) Tympanuchus cupido ssp. attwateri Bendirei Attwater's prairie-chicken Prairie-chickens hybridize with sharp-tailed grouse (T. phasianellus) [27]. ORDER : Galliformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : Attwater's prairie-chicken is listed as endangered [28]. Lesser prairie-chicken is listed as Proposed Threatened [28]. OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Prairie-chicken ditribution is listed below [11]: T. cupido ssp. cupido - formerly along the East Coast, from Massachusetts south to Maryland and inland to north-central Tennessee T. c. ssp. pinnatus - in small isolated populations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, northwestern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and northern Oklahoma T. c. ssp. attwateri - Texas Coastal Plain T. pallidicinctus - southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas through western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, and the Texas Panhandle ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES29 Sagebrush FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K054 Grama - tobosa prairie K065 Grama - buffalograss K069 Bluestem - grama prairie K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie K071 Shinnery K074 Bluestem prairie K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie K077 Bluestem - sacahuista prairie K084 Cross Timbers K088 Fayette prairie SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 16 Aspen SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY PLANT COMMUNITIES : Lesser prairie-chickens inhabit the arid grasslands of New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas [11,20,22]. Plant communities include sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia)-little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) types with sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Lesser prairie-chickens also inhabit shin oak (Quercus havardii)-big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) types. Greater prairie-chickens inhabit climax grasslands of the eastern Great Plains [5,11]. These prairies are dominated by big and little bluestem, indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and switchgrass (Panicum spp.). Oak (Quercus spp.)-hickory (Carya spp.) forests may have once been used by greater prairie-chickens [11].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Age of Maturity - 1 year Mating Season - mid-March through mid-May; males are polygamous Nesting - about 14 days following mating, peaks in May; can nest more than once during season Clutch - lays 12 to 14 eggs; precocial young hatch after 23 days Life Span - probably survives no more than 5 years in the wild Home Range - can be as large as 1,267 acres (506.8 ha) for males and 577 acres (230.8 ha) for females [21,26] PREFERRED HABITAT : Greater prairie-chickens prefer shortgrass and midgrass prairies mixed with tall grasses. In these types they choose edges of midgrass and tallgrass interfaces for day resting, and choose heavier shrub cover for nesting. Lesser prairie-chickens prefer shortgrass prairies intermixed with shrubs, and sites with more dense cover [10]. Prairie-chickens of both species prefer bluegrasses for nesting throughout their range. The ideal grass height for nesting is 11.8 inches (30 cm) [31]. A study in Oklahoma showed that greater prairie-chickens tolerated an average of 2-inch (5 cm)-taller grass than lesser prairie-chickens [13]. In Wisconsin, greater prairie-chickens preferred pastures, stubble fields, and mowed hayfields for booming grounds, where they display and establish territories before mating [29]. In Kansas, prairie-chickens used sorghum fields during winter and forest edges on ridges during all seasons [21]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : Prairie-chickens need open grasslands for brood rearing and feeding, more open and shorter grasslands for booming grounds, and scattered shrub thickets for protection from weather and predators [7,11,22]. Prairie-chickens seem to nest in the taller grasses (8 to 15 inches [16.5-38 cm]) found within their ranges [5]. A stable winter food source is more important for greater prairie-chickens than protection against the cold. Therefore, native grasslands mixed with small grain agricultural fields are ideal habitat [6]. Adequate cover with 0.5 mile of booming grounds is necessary because females tend to nest within this distance. Optimum cover for lesser prairie-chickens consists of midgrass to tallgrass prairies for nesting and winter cover, mixed with lower seral stage grasses for brood rearing and feeding [26]. They need more shrubs for shade during the hot summer months than do greater prairie-chickens [6]. FOOD HABITS : Adult prairie-chickens eat mostly seeds and greens of plants, while chicks feed on insects for the first several months after hatching. Studies in Oklahoma on adjacent ranges of lesser and greater prairie chickens revealed surprising differences in the food plants selected [13]. Greater prairie-chickens preferred western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya), Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus), sedge (Carex spp.), lespedeza (Lespedeza stipulacea), sorghum (Sorghum vulgare), and goldenrod (Solidago spp.). Lesser prairie-chickens preferred sand sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia), fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), sleepy siline (Silene antirrhina), and sixweek fescue (Festuca octoflora). Other food plants used by both species include corn (Zea mays), wheat (Triticum spp.), rye (Secale spp.), alfalfa (Medicago spp.), buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.), rose (Rosa spp.), birch (Betula spp.), aspen (Populus spp.), elm (Almus spp.), hazelnut (Corylus spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), sweetclover (Melilotus spp.), partridge pea (Cassia fasciculata), broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), and violet (Violet spp.) [5,11,22]. PREDATORS : Prairie-chicken predators include man; feral and domestic dogs (Canis spp.); skunks and weasels (Mustelidae); red fox (Vulpes vulpes); raptors (Accipitridae); crows, ravens, and magpies (Corvidae); and many species of snake. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Both greater and lesser prairie-chicken populations have declined rapidly in this century due to habitat destruction and overharvesting [11]. Now all populations are limited to isolated areas of their historic range. Lesser prairie-chickens are declining in Kansas from overirrigation of the sandsage prairie [23]. Shinnery oak (Quercus havardii) rangelands in Texas and New Mexico are often treated with the herbicide Tebuthiuron. Untreated oak stands that are allowed to grow and outcompete grasses will eventually be unsuitable habitat for prairie-chickens. However, as prairie-chickens do eat acorn mast and use the oaks for shade, a mix of untreated and treated stands can be a benefit to the birds [20]. Rotational, deferred, and moderately grazed pastures can also benefit prairie-chickens. Grazing that maintains mid-seral to climax grasses will provide adequate cover and food [26]. Slightly heavier grazing can maintain open spots for booming grounds [17].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : June fires can destroy prairie-chicken nests [25]. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : For the most part, fires are beneficial to prairie-chickens because they can increase food; reduce litter for travelways, dusting grounds, and booming grounds; and stimulate grass growth for brooding and hiding cover [14,19,25]. Fires do not seem to negatively affect immediate use of booming grounds. Following an April fire on prairie-chicken booming grounds in Wisconsin, males reestablished their territory the morning after the fire [2]. April fires in shinnery oak communities prevent acorn production during the burn year but maintain oak as low shrubs [18]. Bluestem forage production in these types decreased with spring fires, but sand bluestem (Andropogon gerardii ssp. paucipilus) and switchgrass production increased. Annual spring burning in aspen parkland in Minnesota resulted in increased flowering of big and little bluestem [24]. December fires in Texas encouraged Atwater's prairie-chickens to use previously unused areas for booming grounds and nesting [4]. Birds nested within 400 yards (366 m) of the recently burned, ungrazed plots. Burned plots that were grazed following fire did not show a significant increase in prairie-chicken use. Fall burning increased grass and forb yields more than spring burning did. Insects also increased. March and August fires on Illinois prairies resulted in an increase in the prairie-chicken population [30]. More nests were found in burned areas after the second, third, and fourth seasons following both March and August fires. Hens were more attracted to the vegetation after August fires. However, March fires are more suitable for prairie restoration where redtop (Agrostis alba) and timothy (Phleum pratense) grasses have invaded native grass prairies. FIRE USE : Prescribed fires can stimulate growth of food and cover plants. They also can reduce cover in booming grounds, and possibly reduce parasites [15,19]. Burning can be used in conjunction with mowing every 3 to 5 years to enhance prairie grasses [31]. In areas where ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) parasitize prairie-chicken nests, autumn grass fires can reduce pheasant nest cover. No more than one half of all nesting cover within 1 mile of a booming ground should be burned in any single year because prairie-chickens usually nest within this range [30]. Burning in late September or early October can create these display grounds in autumn and spring. Fire lanes can provide dusting sites, travel lanes, and the desired edge for nesting [30]. In shinnery oak communities, fire can be used to reduce oak and stimulate growth of understory grasses [7]. However, some grasses may not recover quickly enough to provide alternative cover in place of bluestem grasses, which tend to decrease in these communities following fire. Fires at 3- to 5-year intervals are recommended on Minnesota prairies to stimulate grass growth for prairie-chickens [24]. More frequent fires are recommended where heavy shrub cover needs to be reduced. Optimum cover has been determined at 15 percent brush to 85 percent grassland.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Tympanuchus cupido, T. pallidicinctus
REFERENCES : 1. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714] 2. Anderson, Raymond K. 1969. Prairie chicken responses to changing booming-ground cover type and height. Journal of Wildlife Management. 33: 636-643. [17026] 3. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 4. Chamrad, Albert D.; Dood, J. D. 1973. Prescribed burning and grazing for prairie chicken habitat manipulation in the Texas coastal prairie. In: Proceedings, Annual Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 257-276. [8470] 5. Christisen, Donald M. 1981. Significance of native prairie to greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) survival in Missouri. In: Stuckey, Ronald L.; Reese, Karen J., eds. The Prairie Peninsula--in the "shadow" of Transeau: Proceedings, 6th North American prairie conference; 1978 August 12-17; Columbus, OH. Ohio Biological Survey Biological Notes No. 15. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, College of Biological Sciences: 250-254. [3437] 6. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Scott, Virgil E.; Hamre, R. H.; [and others]. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. Agric. Handb. 688. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 625 p. [15856] 7. Doerr, Ted B.; Guthery, Fred S. 1980. Effects of shinnery oak control on lesser prairie chicken habitat. In: Proceedings of the Prairie Grouse Symposium; 1980 September 17 - September 18; Stillwater, OK. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State Publishing and Printing: 59-63. [17923] 8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 9. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 10. Haukos, D. A.; Smith, L. M. 1989. Lesser prairie chicken nest site selection and vegetation characteristics in tebuthiuron-treated and untreated shinnery oak in TX. Great Basin Naturalist. 49(4): 624-626. [10509] 11. Hornocker, M. G. 1970. An analysis of mountain lion predation upon mule deer and elk in the Idaho Primitive Area. Wildlife Monograph No. 21. 39 p. [17924] 12. Johnsgard, Paul A.; Wood, Robert E. 1968. Distributional changes and interaction between prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the Midwest. Wilson Bulletin. 80(2): 173-188. [15811] 13. Jones, R. E. 1963. Identification and analysis of lesser and greater prairie chicken habitat. Journal of Wildlife Management. 27: 757-778. [5522] 14. Kirsch, Leo M.; Kruse, Arnold D. 1973. Prairie fires and wildlife. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 289-303. [8472] 15. Komarek, E. V., Sr. 1963. The use of fire in wildland management. Proceedings of the Arizona Watershed Symposium. 7: 23-30. [15960] 16. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 17. Lawrence, Jeffrey S.; Silvy, Nova J. 1980. Status of the Attwater's prairie chicken - an update. In: Proceedings of the prairie grouse symposium; 1980 September 17-18; Stillwater, OK. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State Publishing and Printing: 29-33. [17922] 18. McIlvain, E. H.; Armstrong, C. G. 1966. A summary of fire and forage research on shinnery oak rangelands. In: Proceedings, 5th annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1966 March 24-25; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 127-129. [16949] 19. Miller, Howard A. 1963. Use of fire in wildlife management. In: Proceedings, 2d annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1963 March 14-15; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 19-30. [17921] 20. Olawsky, Craig Donald. 1987. Effects of shinnery oak control with tebuthiuron on lesser prairie-chicken populations. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech. University. 83 p. Thesis. [10409] 21. Robel, Robert J.; Briggs, James N.; Cebula, Jerome J.; [and others]. 1970. Greater prairie chicken ranges, movements, and habitat usage. Journal of Range Management. 34(2): 286-306. [5812] 22. Schramm, Harold L., Jr.; Smith, Loren M.; Bryant, Fred C.; [and others]. 1987. Managing for wildlife with the Conservation Reserve Program. Management Note 11. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, Department of Range and Wildlife Management. 6 p. [9634] 23. Sexson, Mark L. 1983. Destruction of sandsage prairie in southwest Kansas. In: Proceedings, 7th North American prairie conference; 1980 August 4-6; Springfield, MO. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri: 113-115. [3210] 24. Svedarsky, W. Daniel; Buckley, Philip E. 1975. Some interactions of fire, prairie and aspen in northwest Minnesota. In: Wali, Mohan K., ed. Prairie: a multiple view. Grand Forks, ND: University of North Dakota Press: 115-122. [4434] 25. Svedarsky, W. D.; Wolfe, T. J.; Kohring, M. A.; Hanson, L. B. 1986. Fire management of prairies in the prairie-forest transition of Minnesota. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 103-107. [16277] 26. Taylor, Maple A.; Guthery, Fred S. 1980. Status, ecology, and management of the lesser prairie chicken. RM-77. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 15 p. [17920] 27. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. [Species proposed for listing]. In: Environmental Conservation Online System, [Online]. In: Species reports. [86536] 28. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Listed animals. In: Environmental Conservation Online System, [Online]. In: Species reports. Available: [86534] 29. Westemeier, R. L. 1971. The history and ecology of prairie chickens in central Wisconsin. Research Bulletin 281. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin. 63 p. [16743] 30. Westemeier, Ronald L. 1973. Prescribed burning in grassland management for prairie chickens in Illinois. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 317-341. [8473] 31. Westemeier, Ronald L.; Buhnerkempe, John E. 1983. Responses of nesting wildlife to prairie grass management on prairie chicken sanctuaries in Illinois. In: Brewer, Richard, ed. Proceedings, 8th North American prairie conference; 1982 August 1-4; Kalamazoo, MI. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, Department of Biology: 39-46. [3120] 32. Herkert, J. R., ed. 1992. Endangered and threatened species of Illinois: status and distribution. Volume 2--Animals. Springfield, IL: Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. 142 p. [23799] 33. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 1992. Canadian species at risk. Ottawa, ON. 10 p. [26183]

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