Diet & Life Expectancy

Photo courtesy of David Haukos

Life on the prairie offers plenty of challenges for lesser prairie-chickens.

Laura Erickson photo

Laura Erickson photo

Lesser prairie-chickens eat insects, seeds, leaves, buds and sometimes cultivated crops. Insects are particularly important to young birds less than 10 weeks of age. Because prairie-chickens obtain the water they need from the food they eat, they don’t require surface water, though they will drink it when it is available.

Great horned owl. Andy Lawrence photo.

Great horned owl. Andy Lawrence photo.

Life is challenging on the prairie, and lesser prairie-chickens have a short life expectancy, with around 40 percent to 60 percent mortality each year. Many animals prey on lesser prairie-chicken adults, including coyotes, bobcats, hawks, owls, raccoons and foxes. Chicks are vulnerable to a far larger slate of predators because of their small size and limited mobility. Harvesting hay before chicks can fly is another cause of mortality. Lesser prairie-chickens are also killed by collisions with cars, power lines, and fences.