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Male Lesser Prairie-Chicken (T. pallidicinctus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Tetraoninae
Genus: Tympanuchus
Gloger, 1841

Tympanuchus cupido
Tympanuchus pallidicinctus
Tympanuchus phasianellus



Tympanuchus is a small genus of birds in the grouse family. They are commonly referred to as prairie chickens. The genus contains three species:

Image Name Common name Subspecies Distribution
Sharp-Tailed Grouse (26089894256) (cropped).jpg Tympanuchus phasianellus Sharp-tailed grouse north as Alaska, south to California and New Mexico, and east to Quebec, Canada
Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) (20163587720).jpg Tympanuchus cupido Greater prairie-chicken Central US to the Atlantic coast
Lesser Prairie Chicken, New Mexico.jpg Tympanuchus pallidicinctus Lesser prairie-chicken western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle including the Llano Estacado, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado.

All three are among the smaller grouse, from 40 to 43 cm (16 to 17 in) in length. They are found in North America in different types of prairie. In courtship display on leks, males make hooting sounds and dance with the head extended straight forward, the tail up, and colorful neck sacks inflated (shown in the photograph at upper right). Tympanuchus comes from Ancient Greek roots and means "holding a drum"; it refers to the membranous neck sacks and the drum-like call of the greater prairie-chicken.

The two prairie-chickens are particularly closely related and look extremely similar.

The extinct heath hen of the American east coast, usually considered a subspecies of the greater prairie-chicken, has been considered a separate species.


  • Holloway, Joel Ellis (2003). Dictionary of Birds of the United States: Scientific and Common Names. Timber Press. p. 206. ISBN 0-88192-600-0.
  • Peterson, Alan P. (Editor). 1999. Zoological Nomenclature Resource (Zoonomen). Accessed 2007-07-29.
  • Sibley, David (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf. pp. 146–147. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  • Storch, Ilse; Bendell, J. F. (2003). "Grouse". In Christopher Perrins (Ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 184–187. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link)