Endangered Species
Mountain-Prairie Region
Lesser Prairie-chicken

lesser prairie-chicken


The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a species of prairie grouse that occupies a five-state range including portions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.  The species is state listed as threatened in Colorado, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) identified the species as a candidate for Federal listing in 1998.

The lesser prairie-chicken is commonly recognized for its feathered feet and stout build. Plumage of the lesser prairie-chicken is characterized by a cryptic pattern of alternating brown and buff-colored barring. Males display brilliant yellow-orange eye combs and reddish-purple air sacs during courtship displays.

Lesser prairie-chicken populations need large tracts of relatively intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive.  Threats to the lesser prairie-chicken include habitat loss, modification, degradation, and fragmentation within its range.

To watch a Texas Parks and Wildlife video of the lesser prairie-chicken, their habitat, threats to them, and mating ritual visit the Audubon web site at: http://policy.audubon.org/videos/saving-lesser-prairie-chicken-texas-park-and-wildlife.

Over the past year, the Service has been looking at the status of the lesser prairie-chicken, threats to the species and conservation efforts resulting in a proposal to list the species. After reviewing public comments and using the best available science, the Service will make a final determination whether to list the species by March 30, 2014.   A determination of whether to list the species as threatened or endangered will depend on the full assessment of the status of the lesser prairie-chicken.

Initiation of the listing proposal process for the lesser prairie-chicken is a part of the terms of a multi-year listing work plan approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 9, 2011.  This work plan, developed through a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and a separate, smaller settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, will enable the agency, over a period of six years, to systematically review and address the needs of more than 250 species now on the candidate list, to determine if they require ESA protection.  A list of these species is available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/listing_workplan.html.

RECENT ACTIONS Service Requests Public Comment on the Draft Range-wide Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and the Draft Environmental Assessment

The Service is soliciting public comment on the draft Range-wide Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LEPC CCAA) and draft environmental assessment (EA). The LEPC CCAA provides conservation measures for the lesser prairie-chicken for oil and gas activities to be implemented on voluntarily enrolled non-Federal lands throughout the range of the lesser prairie-chicken in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The LEPC CCAA would help implement the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan (Range-wide Plan), which was prepared by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Interstate Working Group. The Service recently endorsed the Range-wide Plan. The Range-wide Plan provides a comprehensive conservation strategy that is intended to conserve the species across its range. The Range-wide Plan provides: 1) incentive-based landowner programs, and 2) a mitigation framework to reduce threats and provide resources for off-site conservation. The LEPC CCAA incorporates the Range-wide Plan’s avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures that address impacts from oil and gas activities on enrolled lands. Enrollment of lands into the LEPC CCAA would generate mitigation fees, which would provide significant funds for the implementation of conservation actions under the Range-wide Plan.

The draft LEPC CCAA and EA are available for comment until January 17, 2014. Copies of the draft LEPC CCAA and EA and associated documents are available on line at http://www.fws.gov/coloradoes/ or you may view them on the links below. Written comments should be submitted by mail to Field Supervisor, Colorado Ecological Services Field Office, 134 Union Blvd., Ste. 670, Lakewood, CO 80228; or via email to lesserprairiechicken@fws.gov.

For more information about the lesser prairie-chicken, including recent news, conservation efforts, links, and documents, go to our Southwest Region’s website for the species at:  http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/LPC.html or USFWS ECOS Species Profile

Last updated: January 17, 2017