Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)


Greater Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)


French: Tétras des prairies German: Präriehuhn Spanish: Gallo de las praderas grande

Tetrao Cupido


, 1758,

Virginia, USA


Genetic differentiation among all three species of Tympanuchus is very weak, suggesting either that they evolved in isolation during Pleistocene but subsequent secondary contact and hybridization have obscured molecular differences, or that the ancestral species subdivided much more recently, e.g. during the Wisconsin glaciation, such that ancestral genetic polymorphisms remain identifiable#R. Present species often considered conspecific with T. pallidicinctus. Hybridizes extensively with T. phasianellus in areas of overlap. Nominate †cupido, extinct since 1932, was more divergent in mtDNA than all other sampled populations of Tympanuchus#R. Two extant subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. c. pinnatus (Brewster, 1885) – Greater Prairie-chicken – N & C USA mainly from Dakotas and NW Minnesota S to NE Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, NE Oklahoma and Missouri; isolated populations in C Wisconsin and S Illinois; formerly from C Alberta (SW Canada) S to NC Texas and E to S Ontario and C Ohio.
  • T. c. cupido (Linnaeus, 1758) – Eastern Prairie-chicken – E USA (Massachusetts S to Maryland).
  • T. c. attwateri Bendire, 1893 – Attwater's Prairie-chicken – coastal areas of SE Texas and (formerly) SW Louisiana, in S USA.
  • Descriptive notes

    41–47 cm; male c. 972 g, female c. 813 g (race cupido), male 905–1024 g, female 734–885 g (race pinnatus), male 925–986 g, female... read more


    Most vocal at leks, where males perform elaborate series of postures and manoeuvres, fanning tail... read more


    Originally in native prairies intermixed with oak (Quercus) woodlands: race cupido... read more

    Food and feeding

    Transformation of original habitat into croplands brought important changes. Presently, cultivated grains (mainly corn and sorghum, also... read more


    Lays mid Apr to early Jun (pinnatus); late Mar to early Apr (attwateri). Promiscuous; males form leks, to which they are... read more


    Mostly sedentary; some birds, especially females and juveniles, may move 12–170 km between... read more

    Status and conservation

    VULNERABLE. Despite conservation efforts, race cupido became extinct in 1932, having been confined to Martha’s Vineyard I, Massachusetts, since c. 1870; market... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Greater Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 12 December 2019).