Tympanuchus cupido


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Tympanuchus cupido
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Greater Prairie-chicken, Greater Prairie Chicken, Greater Prairie-Chicken

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bcde+3bcde+4bcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Butcher, G., Rosenberg, K. & Wells, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bird, J., Harding, M. & Wege, D.
This species has undergone rapid population declines, and it has already disappeared from many states in which it was formerly common. Consequently it is listed as Vulnerable.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Tympanuchus cupido is restricted to prairie intermixed with cropland, primarily in the mid-western states of the USA. The three recognised subspecies vary dramatically in status: the Heath Hen T. c. cupido is extinct, and the Attwater's Prairie Hen T. c. attwateri is restricted to small portions of south-east Texas (numbering under 1,000 in the mid-1990s [del Hoyo et al. 1994]) (Schroeder and Robb 1993). The Greater Prairie-chicken (T. c. pinnatus) is extinct or in danger of extinction in 15 states, but numerous enough to be legally hunted in four states (Schroeder and Robb 1993), with the largest remaining populations in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It has been in long-term decline for the last 80 years (G. Butcher in litt.2003), with recent figures suggesting a steep population decline in the period 1989-1997 (Westemeier and Gough 1999).

United States
Regionally extinct:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Rich et al. (2004) estimated the population size to number 700,000 individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Although once abundant in native prairie intermixed with oak Quercus spp. woodland, as prairie and woodland habitats were converted to cropland it had to adapt to agricultural habitats (Schroeder and Robb 1993, del Hoyo et al. 1994). Areas of native vegetation are still required for roosting and breeding, and for displaying males which usually select lek sites with short grass, usually on elevated ground. Most nest sites are in open, grassy habitats such as ungrazed meadows or hayfields (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Loss of prairie habitat through conversion to cropland was primarily responsible for the extinction of T. c. cupido and declines in the other two subspecies. Grazing pressure from sheep and the increase in cropland throughout areas of native prairie is threatening the remaining population of T. c. attwateri in Texas. Habitat fragmentation leading to isolated populations and a loss of genetic variance and subsequent decreases in fertility will reduce fitness and reinforce negative demographic trends (Westemeier et al. 1998). In certain states hunting continues (Schroeder and Robb 1993). The species may suffer from competition with Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Most management effort has been directed toward improvement of habitat. Effective strategies have included manipulation of grazing pressure, control of burning, provision of thick vegetation for protective cover and establishment of reserves. Population reintroduction may be necessary to expand its distribution, particularly where there are no dispersal corridors between occupied and unoccupied habitats, but so far it has had mixed success (Schroeder and Robb 1993). Hunting legislation has frequently been used to protect populations, with mixed success - both T. c. cupido and attwateri were protected. Legislation has been more effective with T. c. pinnatus, perhaps because of its large and diverse distribution (Schroeder and Robb 1993). Removal of Ring-necked Pheasants Phasianus colchicus may reduce interspecific competition (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation within the species's range. Fence areas of habitat to remove grazing pressure from sheep, or reduce the number of grazing animals to maintain habitat. Strictly control hunting, and if survival is confirmed to be higher in unhunted populations consider banning hunting of the species. Retain/restore corridors of suitable habitat between populations to facilitate dispersal and reduce the stresses associated with a loss of genetic variation.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Tympanuchus cupido. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 September 2015.
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