- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Phasianidae
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken is a pale grouse of the southern Great Plains, found only in prairie and agricultural land with shinnery oak and sand sagebrush. Once widespread and abundant, its numbers have crashed following heavy hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and then conversion of its natural habitat to cropland and rangeland. Like its close relative, the larger, darker Greater Prairie-Chicken, male Lesser Prairie-Chickens gather in spring on “leks,” sites where males compete for females by performing spectacular displays.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Lesser Prairie-Chickens are very difficult to find in the vast open country (largely privately owned) of the southern Great Plains. Their pale plumage blends in well with their environment, and their low numbers makes them a proverbial needle in a haystack. Fortunately, since 2017, several ranches (some in partnership with The Nature Conservancy) have opened to the public during the spring lek season. For a small fee, bird watchers can see these spectacular birds at their leks, particularly in western Kansas in April.
- Gallo de las Praderas Chico (Spanish)
- Tétras pâle (French)
- Cool Facts
- The decline in Lesser Prairie-Chicken populations has been mostly the result of the alteration, overgrazing, and loss of its native habitat. The restoration of cropland to grassland under the successful Conservation Reserve Program has been highly beneficial to some populations of Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
- Although Lesser Prairie-Chicken courtship displays and vocalizations differ from those of the larger, darker Greater Prairie-Chicken, hybrids between these two species occasionally occur—a source of concern for the conservation of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, which has a tiny, fragmented, and declining population.
- In the early 1950s, a group of Lesser Prairie-Chickens was released on Ni'ihau Island, Hawaii, but no wild population arose from that introduction. Many game birds have been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, including Erckel’s Francolin, native to Ethiopia, and Kalij Pheasant, of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas.