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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Tympanuchus pallidicinctus


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Lesser Prairie-Chicken, displaying male
credit: Dominic Sherony/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Phasianidae, Pheasants and Grouse view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Appears gray-buff overall, but close inspection reveals dark buff barring, least striking on belly. Note dark stripe through eye, pale throat, and dark feathers on side of neck; appearance of head is transformed in display by raised "hare's ears" feathers and inflated reddish neck sac. ADULT FEMALE Similar to male, but with less distinct dark markings. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 16" (41 cm)

Habitat Uncommon and local, restricted to arid native prairie habitats where short bluegrass and sagebrush predominate. Has suffered catastrophic decline (population now around 20,000); current problems mirror those faced by Greater.

Observation Tips Easiest to see in spring when males display at communal leks, usually on slightly raised ground. Unobtrusive at other times of year.

Range Plains, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Southwest

Voice All birds utter clucking calls. Displaying male's calls are higher pitched than Greater's.

Discussion Superficially similar to Greater, but displaying males in particular are separable with care: inflated neck sacs are reddish, calls are higher pitched and more frantic, and tail is fanned only at start of performance. Lesser's smaller size is not a useful identification feature in the field, especially since you are most unlikely to encounter both species side-by-side. Compared to Greater, Lesser has paler barring, which creates grayer plumage overall, and a less distinct pale throat.