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Species Guide
A photo of a Lesser Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), male
Lesser Prairie Chicken, Male

Lesser Prairie Chicken

Tympanuchus pallidicinctus

The lesser prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, is a medium to large bird, adorned with a striking pattern of white and brown stripes. This species is somewhat smaller and of a paler complexion than its close cousin, the greater prairie-chicken (T. cupido). Adult lesser prairie-chickens typically measure between 38 to 41 centimeters in length and weigh from 630 to 810 grams.

Identification Tips

When observing these birds, look for their distinctive striped plumage, which serves as excellent camouflage in their native grassland habitats. The lesser prairie-chicken also features a short, rounded tail and a stout build characteristic of grouse species.


The lesser prairie-chicken's range is primarily centered in western Kansas, with populations also found in the sandhills and prairies of western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle including the Llano Estacado, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado.


This species is renowned for its lekking behavior, a fascinating mating ritual where males display and call to attract females on traditional grounds known as leks.

Conservation status

The lesser prairie-chicken is classified as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN. Its habitat has been reduced by a staggering 85%, leading to a population decline of up to 99% in certain regions. The remaining suitable habitats are fragmented, with only about 0.1% being contiguous enough to support a viable population. Climate change poses an additional threat, potentially shrinking the sagebrush ecosystem that these birds rely on. Conservation efforts have been contentious, with legal challenges and political actions impacting the species' protection under the Endangered Species Act. As of March 27, 2023, the Southern Distinct Population Segment is listed as endangered, and the Northern DPS as threatened.

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Lesser Prairie Chickens on Birda

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Profile picture for Zachary Haag
Zachary Haag
15 Apr 2023 - 5:00am
United States

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