Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Texas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Grisham, B.A., J.C. Zavaleta, A.C. Behney, P.K. Borsdorf, D.R. Lucia, C.W. Boal, and D.A. Haukos. 2016. Ecology and Conservation of Lesser Prairie-Chickens in Sand Shinnery Oak Prairies. Pp. 315-344 in D.A. Haukos and C.W. Boal (editors), Ecology and conservation of Lesser Prairie-Chickens. Studies in Avian Biology (no. 48), CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.


Abstract. Sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii) prairies are unique ecosystems endemic to sandy soils of eastern New Mexico, northwestern Texas, and western Oklahoma; the historic and current distribution of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) overlaps these prairie systems. Lesser Prairie-Chicken populations in sand shinnery oak prairies of the Southern Great Plains have declined substantially since the late 1980s, most likely due to conversion of nesting and brood-rearing habitat to row-crop agriculture and extended periods of drought. In addition to threats universal throughout the species distribution, this population is susceptible to a changing climate in an area that is already representative of an extreme environment for ground-nesting birds. Recent studies of Lesser Prairie-Chicken ecology in sand shinnery oak prairies have expanded our knowledge on the ecology and management of the species, but a thorough review of the historic and current literature is lacking. In addition, current management guidelines exist for Lesser Prairie-Chickens in mixed grass and sand sagebrush prairies, but there are no comprehensive management guidelines for the species in sand shinnery oak prairies. This information is paramount given unique aspects of the vegetation community, relative ecosystem drivers, and environmental variation in sand shinnery oak prairie and the species’ current status as a proposed threatened species under the United States Endangered Species Act. Herein, we provide a thorough synthesis of literature pertaining to the life history, habitat requirements, habitat management, and population management for Lesser Prairie-Chickens in sand shinnery oak prairie, provide management guidelines and recommendations for the species in this ecoregion, and highlight current and future research needs. Within our objectives, we place emphasis on two recently completed long-term investigations into Lesser Prairie-Chicken ecology in sand shinnery oak prairie - a 10-year vegetation data set collected in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, 2001–2011 and a 6-year Lesser Prairie-Chicken data set   collected in Roosevelt County, New Mexico and Cochran, Hockley, Terry, and Yoakum counties, Texas, 2006–2012.