Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)

Greater Prairie-Chickens gather on leks, called booming grounds, every morning during the breeding season. The males compete for the attention of the females by dancing, singing, and fighting. All of these recording were made at the Milk Crystal Dairy Farm in Portage County, Wisconsin. Prairie Chicken Viewing. Here is an extended track with various sounds from the lek.

Greater Prairie-Chicken, sounds on a lek, April 12, 2011, Milk Crystal Dairy Farm, Portage County, Wisconsin.

Boom: A very low pitched, 3-syllable call that is somewhat reminiscent of the sound made by blowing across the top of a soda bottle or jug. It is produced by the syrinx, like most other bird sounds, but is amplified by the special esophageal air sacs of the males (Johnson 2011). The sound of a boom can carry for as much 4 km. They are given in the context of mild aggressive encounters with other males, as well as in the presence of females during courtship. The aggressive booms tend to be softer and shorter. The fundamental frequency is 268 Hz (Sparling 1983).

Greater Prairie-Chicken, foot stomping, tail-click and boom, April 12, 2011, Milk Crystal Dairy Farm, Portage County, Wisconsin.

Foot Stomping: Immediately preceding a Boom, the males often perform a short dance consisting of a rapid series of alternating foot stomps. This creates a quick pitter-patter sound that is audible at close range.

Tail-click: The males open and close their tails quickly to produce a double click scraping sound. (Grange 1940).

Whoop: A loud, clear, descending whooo, that has an unsettling human like quality. Whoop calls are epigamic, occuring much more frequently when hens are present. The fundamental frequency is 623 Hz (Sparling 1983).

Greater Prairie-Chicken, Whoop calls, April 12, 2011, Milk Crystal Dairy Farm, Portage County, Wisconsin.

Whine: Used in agonistic situations with other male prairie-chickens. The fundamental frequency is 989 Hz (Sparling 1983).

Cackle: Used during stand offs with other males on the booming grounds (Johnson 2011). The fundamental frequency is 760 Hz (Sparling 1983).


Grange, W. B. 1940. A comparison of the displays and vocal performances of the Greater Prairie-Chicken, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Sooty Grouse. Passenger Pigeon 2:127-133.

Johnson, Jeff A., M. A. Schroeder and L. A. Robb. 2011. Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: doi:10.2173/bna.36

Sparling, Jr., D. W. 1983. Quantitative analysis of prairie grouse vocalizations. Condor 85:30-42.