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Greater Prairie Chicken

Tympanuchus cupido

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 28 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Body size and shape, brown overall with heavy light barring, short rounded dark tail, yellow eye combs. 

Greater Prairie Chicken - Tympacnuchus cupidoThe Greater Prairie Chicken perform their spectacular booming displays every spring on traditional sites, such as in the Fort Pierre National Grasslands near Pierre, where the photo on the right was taken.  Greater Prairie Chickens are much reduced in range and in numbers due to the loss of native tall-grass prairies.  

Habitat: Requires relatively undisturbed prairie, originally living on natural tallgrass prairie.  They can tolerate a small amount of agricultural land interspersed with prairie, but generally become less and less numerous as the percentage of agricultural land increases.

Diet: Primarily feeds on leaves, seeds, berries, and waste grain in the winter, as well as acorns where available.  In the summer, these items are augmented by insects.  

Behavior: Forages most often near dawn and dusk, foraging on the ground most of the time, but also up in trees and shrubs.

Nesting: May and June

Song: Long, low hooting from male in display.  Both males and females also having clucking sounds.

Migration: Generally a permanent resident, although individuals may move around within the same general area.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Greater Prairie Chicken sightings

Similar Species: Sharp-tailed Grouse. See the species comparison chart Lesser Prairie-Chicken also very similar, but the two species do not overlap.

Status: The now Atlantic Coast race (the Heath Hen) is now extinct.  Other races such as the Texas Coast race (Attwater's) is seriously endangered.  Extirpated locally elsewhere, they are greatly reduced in number and in range from their historical numbers.  Numbers continue to decline as grassland habitats are lost to human uses.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Greater Prairie Chicken

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Greater Prairie Chicken"

3) Greater Prairie Chicken

Photo Information: March 21st, 2003 -- Richland Dam, Fort Pierre National Grasslands -- Doug Backlund 


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Greater Prairie Chicken - Range map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident in the central part of the state.

Additional Greater Prairie Chicken Photos (coming soon!)