IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Biology

Greater prairie chickens spend their entire lives within a relatively small area of several hundred acres where all their needs of food, cover and water are met, flying several miles between food and cover sites if necessary (4). Feeding usually occurs in the early morning and late afternoon, the diet consisting of agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans and milo (4), in addition to small green leaves, seeds, and insects (5). Young chicks in particular rely heavily on insects during the first few weeks of life (4). The breeding season begins in early spring and extends until June (4). Areas known as 'booming grounds' or 'leks' are used by males as places to dance and call to attract females (4) (5). Males fight among themselves for territories on the lek, with one or two males normally emerging as dominant, and subsequently performing the majority of the mating (8). After mating, females build their nests in tall grass, laying between 4 and 15 eggs per clutch, with an average of 12, which are incubated for approximately 26 days (4) (8). The hatching period peaks from late May to early June (4) when insect populations are high, to provide nourishment for the chicks (8), and the chicks then remain with the hen for eight to ten weeks (4). The chicks are quite mobile at hatching and can fly short distances by two weeks (8). Greater prairie chickens live to about two to three years in the wild (5).

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