Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Lesser Prairie-chicken Final Listing Decision Information

Tympanuchus pallidicinctus

  • Range: The lesser prairie-chicken currently occupies a five-state range that includes portions of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Status: Northern DPS-Proposed Threatened; Southern DPS-Proposed Endangered
  • Population estimate: Results from aerial population surveys conducted by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies estimate a range-wide five-year average population size of 27,384 individuals.  

About the lesser prairie-chicken

The lesser prairie-chicken is emblematic of the grasslands of the southwest, a treasured and storied American landscape of great importance to the people who call the area home. It is a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its colorful spring mating display and stout build. 

While historical estimates suggest lesser prairie-chickens once numbered in the hundreds of thousands or even millions across nearly one hundred million acres, populations have declined drastically due to habitat loss and fragmentation. It is estimated that lesser prairie-chicken habitat has diminished across its historical range by about 90 percent.

Lesser prairie-chickens need large tracts of relatively intact native grasslands and prairies to thrive, and are considered a "boom-bust" species with annual reproductive success tied to precipitation patterns.

The Service, in cooperation with state wildlife agencies, private landowners and other partners, is working to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken and the native grasslands and prairies that support the species.

Proposed Listing

On June 1, 2021, the Service proposed listing two distinct population segments (DPS) of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Our scientific review of past, present and future threats to the lesser prairie-chicken and ongoing conservation efforts found the Southern population is in danger of extinction, and the Northern population is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, we proposed to list the Southern population as endangered under the ESA and the Northern population as threatened with a 4(d) rule that tailors protections. 

The Southern DPS encompasses lesser prairie-chicken populations in eastern New Mexico and across the southwest Texas Panhandle. Habitat in this population segment is comprised largely of shinnery oak prairie. The Northern DPS encompasses lesser prairie-chicken populations in southeastern Colorado, southcentral to western Kansas, western Oklahoma and the northeast Texas Panhandle. This DPS includes the lesser prairie-chicken’s short-grass, mixed-grass and sand sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse and over 350 other species.

Learn more about sagebrush
ecoregions.

We are evaluating all new information gathered during the public comment period and will make a final listing determination in June 2022.

Listing History

The lesser prairie-chicken became a candidate for listing under the ESA in 1998 and was listed as a threatened species in 2014. The listing was vacated in 2015 following a lawsuit. In September 2016, we received a new petition to list the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered, and in November 2016 made a substantial 90-day petition finding that listing may be warranted. We proposed listing two Distinct Population Segments of the lesser prairie-chicken in May 2021, which was followed by a 90-day comment period.

Species Status Assessment

Our peer-reviewed species status assessment (SSA) provides a biological risk assessment and incorporates the effects of both the threats and conservation efforts impacting the lesser prairie-chicken and evaluates its current condition. It also examines its biological status under varying plausible future conditions, incorporating the implications of future threats and conservation actions. According to the assessment, habitat loss and fragmentation are expected to continue, even when accounting for ongoing and future conservation efforts, which will result in continued declines across the species’ range.

Partners in Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation

For over two decades, we've been working with our federal, state and private partners to facilitate the conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat. These partnerships have resulted in a number of conservation efforts for the lesser prairie-chicken. Together we have made great strides, including raising awareness and conserving key habitat, but we still have a long way to go for a sustainable, long-term impact. 

Learn more about these partnerships and agreements benefitting the lesser prairie-chicken.

Contact Information

Species

Programs

The Ecological Services Program works to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants and the environments upon which they depend. Using the best available science, we work with federal, state, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners, to...

Facilities

We work with public and private partners to conserve and restore New Mexico's threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, wetlands, and other important fish and wildlife resources. To accomplish our mission, we implement the following priorities: Endangered Species, Environmental...
The Colorado Ecological Services Field Offices have staff in Lakewood and Grand Junction who work with partners to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants, and the environments upon which they depend.
The USFWS Kansas Ecological Services Field Office is located in Manhattan, Kansas, in the northern Flint Hills. The office provides information related to at-risk, threatened and endangered species that may occur in Kansas and other management directives for the USFWS and partners.