Lesser prairie chicken

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Lesser prairie chicken
Lesser Prairie Chicken, New Mexico.jpg
A lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Tympanuchus
T. pallidicinctus
Binomial name
Tympanuchus pallidicinctus
(Ridgway, 1873)
map of lesser prairie chicken distribution in south central United States
Lesser prairie chicken range.[2][3]

Tympanuchus cupido pallidicinctus

The lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a species in the grouse family.


It is a medium to large bird, striped white and brown, slightly smaller and paler than its near relative the greater prairie chicken (T. cupido). Adults range from 15.0-16.1 in (38-41 cm) in length and 22.1-28.7 oz (628-813 g) in weight.[4]


About half of its current population lives in western Kansas, with the other half in the sandhills and prairies of western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle including the Llano Estacado, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado.


Like its larger relative, it is known for its lekking behavior.


Considered "vulnerable" by the IUCN due to its restricted and patchy range, it is vulnerable to habitat destruction.[5] The lesser prairie chicken’s habitat has been reduced by 85%, and their population has declined by as much as 99% in some ecoregions as a result. Of the remaining patches of suitable habitat, only around 0.1% are sufficiently contiguous to sustain even a minimum population of the birds.[6] There is evidence suggesting that global warming may have a particularly detrimental influence by greatly reducing the size of the sagebrush ecosystem.[7] Subfossil remains are known, e.g., from Rocky Arroyo in the Guadalupe Mountains, outside the species' current range but where more habitat existed in the less humid conditions in the outgoing last ice age. Range contraction apparently took place no later than about 8000 BC.

The United States Department of the Interior proposed creating a Lesser Prairie Chicken Preserve as a national monument, but action was never taken action on the proposal.[8] On March 27, 2014, the lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened (T) under the Endangered Species Act but the listing was vacated in 2015 following a legal challenge and the bird's status remains uncertain.[9]

In 2015, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan) introduced an amendment to legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline that would overturn the listing. He disputed the listing as, "... another example of unnecessary intrusion into private lives and businesses by the federal government." His action is supported by the American Energy Alliance, and opposed by the League of Conservation Voters.[10]

When the Senate voted on the Keystone bill, it did not get the 60 votes in favor that was required to pass. It got only 53 Republican and one Democratic Senator to vote in favor.[10]


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Tympanuchus pallidicinctus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. BirdLife International and NatureServe (2014) Bird Species Distribution Maps of the World. 2012. Tympanuchus pallidicinctus. In: IUCN 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org Archived 2014-06-27 at the Wayback Machine. Downloaded on 09 July 2015.
  3. National Geophysical Data Center, 1999. Global Land One-kilometer Base Elevation (GLOBE) v.1. Hastings, D. and P.K. Dunbar. National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA. doi:10.7289/V52R3PMS [access date: 2015-03-16]
  4. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Lesser Prairie-Chicken Identification". All About Birds. Cornell University. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  5. BirdLife International (2004). "Tympanuchus pallidicinctus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
  6. Bascom, Nick (July 16, 2021). "What's in a Name? The Peculiar Perfection of the Lesser Prairie Chicken". Counterpunch. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  7. Youth, Howard (2007). "Lekkin' Grouse on the Prairie". Zoogoer March/April 2007. National Zoo. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  8. Kirk Johnson (February 20, 2010). "In the West, 'Monument' is a Fighting Word". New York Times. p. A8. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  9. "U.S. lists lesser prairie chicken as threatened, energy groups wary". Reuters: Environment. Reuters. Retrieved 28 March 2014.[dead link]
  10. 10.0 10.1 Sheppard, Kate. "Keystone, Meet The Grouse Wars". Huffington Post. January 28, 2015. November 19, 2015.

External links

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