A Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s Year: Summer

Two of the many grasshopper species that inhabit prairie grasslands. Anna Walkowiak photo.

« Back to A Lesser Prairie-Chicken’s Year

Summertime on the prairie—raising chicks

As late May rolls into June, the Southern Great Plains erupt into greenery and springtime flowers. With that green-up comes the immense variety of insects and other invertebrates that eat those greening prairie plants — grasshoppers, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and countless others. Perfect timing, as hungry lesser prairie-chicken chicks need plenty of protein to grow.

Can you spot the chicks amid the greenery? Photo courtesy of David Haukos.

Can you spot the chicks amid the greenery? Photo courtesy of David Haukos.

From about June 15 – August 15, females rear their chicks. It’s a critical and vulnerable time for the females and their young. Researchers have found that just 58% of females survive the three-month breeding season (Haukos et al. 1988). They’ve also found that nesting and brood-rearing females have higher mortality rates than at other times of years, and higher than females not engaged in nesting and brood-rearing (Hagen et al, 2007).

According to a Kansas study, 31% of chicks survive, with half of broods studied losing all chicks prior to fledging (Jamison, 2000).