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Greater Prairie Chicken - BirdForum Opus

Displaying adult male
Photo © by ruby99
Northeast Colorado, USA, April 2010
Tympanuchus cupido


41–47 cm
The entire body is covered in bars.


Mainly seen in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri, with smaller populations in Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Texas.

Male of the Attwater's subspecies
Photo © by Greg Lavaty
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, Texas, USA, July 2009


The species itself belongs to the Genus Tympanuchus, but placed in Tetraonidae by some authorities[1].


There are 3 subspecies[1]:

  • T. c. pinnatus:
  • T. c. cupido: (Heath Hen)
  • Formerly north-eastern US; extirpated ca 1932
  • T. c. attwateri: (Attwater's)
  • Coastal south-eastern Texas


Vulnerable, largely due to loss of habitat and competition with invasive Ring-necked Pheasant. Hunting (both historical and modern) also play a role. Current range highly fragmented, once occurred over much of North America. The Attwater's subspecies critically endangered.


Female of the Attwater's subspecies
Photo © by Greg Lavaty
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, Texas, USA, July 2009

Seen in expansive tall-grass prairies.


Often seen in flocks of over 15. This species is famous for the male's displays on the lek.


Their main diet consists of grains. In the spring and summer they will eat insects. In some areas acorns form an important part of their diet.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9., with updates to August 2014. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2014)

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