Great Basin Naturalist


Descriptions of Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) foods in New Mexico have not included comparison between autumn and winter seasons. We analyzed and compared prairie-chicken crop contents in autumn 1976 (n = 9) and 1977 (n = 17) and winter 1977 (n = 4) and 1978 (n = 2) in a shinnery oak (Quercus havardii) grassland in southeastern New Mexico. Autumn foods were a mixture of seeds ( = 43%), vegetative material ( = 39%), and insects ( = 18%), especially shinnery oak acorns and insect galls ( = 49%). Short-horned grasshoppers (Acrididae, = 15%) alsw were an important food. Winter foods were shinnery oak acorns ( = 69%) and wild buckwheat (Eriogonum annuum, = 14%). Use of vegetative material and insects decreased from autumn to winter, whereas use of acorns increased. High Plains Bluestem Subtype in the Southern Mixed Prairie is an important habitat that provides many of the foods eaten by prairie-chickens. Therefore, broad-scale disturbances of this community should be avoided.