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Either of two species of North American grouse (genus Tympanuchus) noted for lek displays (group courtship displays). The greater prairie chicken is about 18 in. (45 cm) long and may weigh almost 2 lbs (1 kg). Its brown plumage is strongly barred below, and it has a short, rounded, dark tail. It occurs locally from Saskatchewan to coastal Texas and Louisiana; northernmost birds are somewhat migratory. The eastern subspecies, the heath hen, is extinct. The lesser prairie chicken, smaller and paler, inhabits the arid western central Great Plains. The sharp-tailed grouse (Pedioecetes) is locally called prairie chicken.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on prairie chicken, visit Britannica.com.