Watch out for the Prairie Chickens! These wickedly fast, North American birds are here to stay. They dance when looking to mate, dive into the snow to keep warm, and are not afraid to fly far from home looking for food, though they are bound to come back eventually. Very territorial, these birds are well known for their unique air sacs, extra feathers and wings, as well as their unique aversion to humans. They avoid all things human, and even other members of their species. You may not be able to see them just yet, but that does not mean you can not read about them. Read on for Greater Prairie Chicken facts, Attwater Prairie Chicken facts, Lesser Prairie Chicken facts, and a lot more!
The Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) is a type of bird.
The Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) belongs to the bird class.
There population of the Greater Prarie Chicken is thought to be 500,000. It is estimated that there used to be millions of the Greater Prairie Chicken in the 1800s.
The Greater Prairie Chicken lives in and around savanna lands in North America.
The Greater Prarie Chicken prefers to live in savannas with tall grass. They can survive on agricultural tracts if needed, but do not prefer living there.
Though a lot of Prairie Chickens can be present in a single tract of land, they usually prefer to live by themselves. They are very territorial and will set up their own "booming grounds" where they strut and show off in order to attract a mate in mating season.
The Greater Prairie Chicken lives for approximately two to three years. This varies due to various external factors such as booming areas, temperature, weather, human interaction, and more. If left completely alone, they can live as long as four years. If they have sustained trouble, then their life span can drop to two years.
The Prairie Chickens reproduce by mating. The males will be seen strutting in his booming grounds, inflating and deflating his air sacs in hopes of attracting females into their territory. They then mate, after which the female lays eggs. After the mating, the female is responsible not just for the eggs hatching, but also for feeding and protecting the newborn chicks from the extreme weather. Because of this, a lot of chicks can be with a single female, which leads to a lot of babies not making it to adulthood.
Due to loss of habitat, climate conditions, and problems with their own hatching eggs, the population of the Greater Prairie Chicken has declined a lot. The IUCN Red List marks the Prairie Chickens as Near Threatened.
The males are usually slightly bigger than the females and will have a bright orange-red colored air sac at the side of their neck, immediately under their straight beak. Both have brown and tan upper bodies, with stripes and bands over their frame. They also have black pinnate feathers. Pinnate feathers are tufts of feathers that look like wings but are not really. These feathers are present on the sides of the neck, and can be raised up, or made to lay down as needed.
The males will often raise these feathers to attract females. The males and females have different tail colors. While the females will have brown tails with bands, the males will have a pitch tail. The chicks will have solid-colored bodies until they grow older, and these markings become more apparent.
The Prairie Chickens are not very cute birds. Not only do they avoid human contact, but they are also unfriendly towards other chickens from the same species such as the Heath Hen and the Attwater's Prairie Chicken. So it's best to stay away from these wild birds and stick to the friendlier birds on a farm.
Most of the communication by the Greater Prairie Chicken is non-verbal. The Greater Prairie Chicken males will establish their respective booming areas, and then communicate from within those booming grounds. The males will show off their air sacs, flutter their wings, stick up their tails, and move their heads close to the ground in an elaborate mating display and to ward off other males. The females only coo and cluck.
The Greater Prairie Chicken is about 16-18 in. This makes them one of the biggest birds in all of the North American birds. They are rivaled only by the North American Jersey Giant who can sometimes grow to be double the size of the Prairie Chickens.
The Greater Prairie Chickens can only fly short distances. They can run, hop, skip, and on rare occasions, flutter from the ground in emergencies, but when it comes to flight, they can fly only up to 30 mi in search of a good food source. However, this species is also very territorial and does not migrate if they can help it.
The Greater Prairie Chickens are relatively light, weighing approximately one to two kg.
There are no specific names for the males and the females of the Greater Prairie Chickens.
There are no specific names for the chicks and babies of the Greater Prairie Chickens.
The Greater Prairie Chickens usually eat herbivorous food. These birds prefer leaves, corn, grass, seeds, and other types of grain. However, if vegetation is in short supply, this bird species can also turn to grasshoppers, insects, worms, and other creatures.
No, this bird species is not dangerous to humans. If anything, these birds will go out of their way to avoid humans. They are, however, somewhat dangerous to other males in their habitat, who stray too close to their booming grounds. They are also relatively dangerous for other small birds and animals that may encroach upon their habitat.
No. The Prairie Chickens are found in the wild and are wild birds at the end of the day. They are also not common chickens, sharing more similarities with the pheasant. This bird rarely survives in human households, stays away from human establishments (roads, power lines, electricity towers), and in general, would make a very poor pet. In addition to this species' aversion to humans, they do not have any use in a human household either.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
Aside from all of the above, their status as an endangered bird has made it illegal in many states to own this bird as a household pet.
One of the Attwater Prairie Chicken fun facts is that this species of grouse is extinct. Due to loss of habitat, eggs not hatching, inability to find booming areas, as well as the invasion of pheasants, this species is no longer alive. It is assumed that these birds had two sub-sub species too, who are said to be alive. However, we will never know for sure.
There are a lot of different subspecies to this bird. Some of the birds in this are the Attwater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri), Lesser Prairie Chicken, Greater Prairie Chicken, the Heath Hen, and more. The differences between them are very subtle, usually around tail length, size, body markings, and more. The Lesser Prairie Chicken can still be found in places like Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and some other states too.
One of the major reasons this bird is declining in population is the loss of habitat. With human construction increasing, these birds are fast running out of space for booming grounds for the males, to lay eggs, or even to walk around in their habitat. Another reason is the weather. Though the colder climates do not bother the older males and females, a lot of chicks perish to the harsh cold.
In addition, there are problems with how the eggs hatch. A lot of pheasants and grouse lay their eggs in nests by the chicken (Greater Prairie) and leave them. The female chicken (Greater Prairie) sits on all the eggs, and when the pheasant eggs hatch first, she walks away, not realizing that her own eggs are not hatched. And thus, the eggs never transform into chicks. This is a problem faced by the Attwater's Prairie Chicken too.
Though there are various conservation efforts in place, especially in terms of saving booming areas (especially for the Attwater's Prairie Chicken), a lot still remains to be done to ensure the survival of these birds. Some labs have tried to breed them in captivity, but so far, these efforts have had only moderate success.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Prairie chicken coloring pages.