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.
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).