Temporal variation in breeding season survival and cause-specific mortality of lesser prairie-chickens

Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
By: , and 



The lesser prairie-chicken Tympanuchus pallidicinctus has experienced significant declines in distribution and abundance since the early 1900s. A severe and prolonged drought from 2009 to 2013 resulted in further declines in population numbers and despite improved environmental and habitat conditions since 2013, populations of lesser prairie chickens have shown little improvement. To investigate whether breeding season survival of lesser prairie-chickens in eastern New Mexico could be driving this response, we developed the following objectives: 1) estimate male and female breeding-season survival; 2) determine whether male and female survival varies temporally among lekking, nesting, and brood-rearing periods; and 3) determine cause-specific mortality during the breeding season. We captured and radiocollared 76 lesser prairie-chickens (50 male, 26 female) during spring of 2014 and 2015 and estimated their survival throughout the breeding season (15 March–31 August). Male survival was nearly double that of females in both years (0.79–0.81 and 0.38–0.45, respectively). Males had similar survival across all periods (lekking, postlekking, late summer: 0.89–0.95). Females had the greatest period-specific survival during lekking and brood rearing (0.87 ± 0.08 and 0.85 ± 0.10, respectively) relative to the nesting period (0.58 ± 0.11). Mammalian predation was the primary cause of mortality in both years. Our results indicate that in New Mexico 1) lesser prairie-chicken breeding season survival was consistent with geographically similar studies, 2) females have lower survival during the nesting period, and 3) female lesser prairie-chicken survival was lower than male survival regardless of time period. Management actions that provide and protect high-quality nesting habitat may help ensure that female survival is maximized during the nesting period.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Temporal variation in breeding season survival and cause-specific mortality of lesser prairie-chickens
Series title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
DOI 10.3996/112016-JFWM-081
Volume 9
Issue 2
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher US Fish and Wildlife Service Scientific Journals
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta, Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 12 p.
First page 507
Last page 518
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Lea County, Roosevelt County
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page