Prairie- chicken

As the name implies, the Prairie- chicken is the bird with directly opposite haunts from the ruffled grouse. He is a bird of the Plains states and western provinces of Canada, with several close relatives in a smaller species known as the lesser prairie chicken, and also the sharp-tailed grouse and sage hen. The prairie chicken is also known as the pinnated grouse.

Many of these birds once lived in the eastern states but because of wide cultivation of the fields and the leveling of the land, were gradually limited to the broader western lands. The heath hen is extinct because of man and, for that matter, several of the same general types are found now only in rare bands.

Fortunately the pinnated grouse has more territory at its beck and call and so was able to cope better than most of the others with the advances of civilization.

The Prairie- chicken is about the same size and shape as the ruffed grouse, but with more drab markings and a square tail, rather than a fan. Male chickens wear a slight crown on the head which is drab brown, unlike the darker crest of the ruffed grouse, and they sport two ruffs at the side of the neck which also do not contrast with the neck as much as the eastern partridge's ruffs contrast with his neck.

Prairie- chicken seem to successfully make the wide open spaces their home, and manage to hide well from predators and hunters, preferring to run away ahead of the gunners or dogs than risk flying into the air. When they do take wing, they do so with a frightening explosion and erratic air path. They are found more often in small flocks and so make relatively easy hunting. The urge to migrate is strong in the more northern climes.

They prefer to miss the icy blasts and deep snow drifts and move south. They mate in March and up until early May. A number of cock birds may gather at sunup to dance for their female prizes. They inflate yellow-colored air sacs on their neck until they resemble horns.

They crackle and squawk as they reach the motions expel the air in booming sounds, which can be heard for some distance, to attract other hens to the scene. To further excite interest they raise the ruffs on the side of the necks to resemble horns. They crackle and squawk as they reach the climax of the mating dance.

The Prairie chicken is so intent on the business at hand that one can approach quite closely. Females lay from eight to twelve eggs and the young leave the nest very soon after hatching to fend for themselves.

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