Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36

  • Grasslands
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Shore/Bank
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 62
    Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 36: Central Shortgrass Prairie

    Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)

    Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly to threats, management, and conservation activities include Upland Sandpiper, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark.

    Distribution: Greater Prairie-Chickens reside from eastern North Dakota east to northern Michigan, south to southeastern Texas, and west as far as northeastern Colorado, where they inhabit only parts of Yuma, Washington, and Phillips counties, also Sedgwick, Logan, and Morgan counties, where they were introduced. This species' expansion into Colorado in historical times may have been facilitated by planting of grain: shortgrass prairie offers too few seeds for an adequate winter food supply.

    Habitat Requirements: They mainly reside in mixed-grass and tallgrass prairies, but they will accept some agricultural land. Historically, the habitat included oak. In Colorado, this species frequents areas with sand sagebrush. They nest in areas with dense vertical and horizontal grass cover, where grass height averages 25 to 70 cm (10-28 in).

    Ecology: Courtship activity on the leks begins in April, with young fledging by mid July. Individuals migrate only a short distance for wintering (about 40 km; 25 mi). The diet includes leaves, seeds, buds, and fruits from a variety of plants, also cultivated grains, and insects. They will eat acorns where available.

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Insecticide use may limit availability of insect prey, which is critical to chick survival. Postpone the use of insecticides until after young have fledged.

    Conversion of native grassland to intensive agriculture can reduce Greater Prairie-Chicken populations due to direct (e.g., nest destruction by farm machinery) and indirect (loss of preferred food sources) effects. Native and exotic grasslands provide more suitable habitat than croplands; grasslands should be retained in the largest contiguous blocks possible, with the 65-ha (160-ac) minimum size recommended for southwestern Missouri birds (Ryan et al. 1998) utilized in Colorado, unless future research suggests otherwise.

    The exotic Ring-necked Pheasant competes directly with prairie-chickens, and sometimes parasitizes their nests. Remove existing pheasant populations and introduce no additional pheasants where management goals include protection of prairie-chicken populations.

    Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and throughout its range. This is a USFS Sensitive Species in Region 2. Within the shortgrass physiographic area, this species is not adequately monitored by BBS surveys, and data collected during 1969-1996 are too sparse for meaningful analysis. Greater Prairie-Chickens were present on an average of 4.69% (SE = 1.40) of BBS routes run in Physiographic Area 36 in Colorado during 1988-1997, at an average abundance of 0.62 (SE = 0.30) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year was 29.2 (SE = 2.28). CDOW surveys indicate that Colorado populations are stable or increasing. This species is monitored by CDOW.

    Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results from the BBS and CDOW monitoring programs.

    Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Flickinger and Swineford 1983, Kingery 1998, Prose 1985, Schroeder and Robb 1993, Van Sant and Braun 1990, Vance and Westemeier 1979.

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