By Chester A. Reed
PRAIRIE CHICKEN (Tympanuchus americanus americanus). Often known, too, as Prairie Hen and as "Pinnated Grouse." These are the game birds of the plains in the interior. They flock during the fall and winter months, lie well to dogs, frequent open, easily traversed country and above all their large size, 1 8 inches in length, and tender palatable flesh are a reward to the hunter in addition to the sport of capture. However, they do not require anywhere near the skill and quickness to secure that the Ruffed Grouse does. They are hunted on foot, on horseback, in carriages and even from automobiles, but always with dogs to locate the chickens and to put them up.
They frequent the plains of central North America from southern Canada south to Texas.
During the mating season the males perform the most ludicrous antics; assembling on a slight rise, they strut about with the pinnates elevated and the orange sacs beneath inflated until they look like little oranges and almost conceal the head which is drawn down between them; the short tail is spread fan-like over the back; from all sides come the deep booming notes sounding like the gathering of a lot of enormous bullfrogs. When they get worked up to the proper pitch, the fight for partners is on in earnest, the feet, wings and bills being used with savage effect. The winners, of course, secure the belles, while the losers take what is left or go through the season as bachelors.
HEATH HEN (Tympanuchus cupido). This is the Prairie Chicken of the east, now confined to the island of Martha's Vineyard, but formerly ranging over southern New England and part of the Middle States. They are very little smaller than the last, the scapulars are broadly tipped with buff and the pinnates are pointed and less than ten in number.
LESSER-PRAIRIE CHICKEN (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is smaller and paler, and the bars on the back are brown with black edgings. Found on plains from Kansas to Texas.