LPC Habitat

The LPC currently occupies 30,900 square miles in the southern Great Plains, which is only 17% of its estimated historical range. Portions of the LPC habitat lie in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The LPC habitat lies in three distinct ecosystems: sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia), sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii) and mixed grass vegetation communities. These are used to describe the four specific ecoregions in which the LPC is found:

  • Shinnery Oak Prairie Region (SOPR), which is located in eastern New Mexico and the southwest Texas Panhandle.
  • Sand Sagebrush Prairie Region (SSPR), which is located in southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and the western Oklahoma Panhandle.
  • Mixed Grass Prairie Region (MGPR), which is located in the northeast Texas panhandle, western Oklahoma, and south central Kansas.
  • Short Grass/CRP Mosaic (SG/CRP), which is located in northwestern Kansas.

The LPC has three necessary habitat components: nesting habitat, brood-rearing and summer habitat, and autumn and winter habitat. Optimal LPC habitat generally consists of 2/3 nesting habitat and 1/3 brood habitat. The fire-grazing interaction historically created a mosaic of cover that the LPC relied on, so disturbance is an integral part of LPC habitat and reproductive success, but must be implemented according to their life cycle.

Leks are characterized by low vegetation and are often located on a knoll or ridge. Disturbed areas, such as old well pads, have been known to be utilized as LPC leks. Since leks are highly visible and frequented during mating season, leks are important for monitoring LPC populations, location, and health.

Watch a video on LPC habitat types and leks.

Nesting Habitat

Nesting habitat is characterized as tall and dense cover of shrubs and perennial grasses. From mid-April to mid-June LPC will seek dense and tall cover for protection from predators and grazing should be reduced. The highest success rates for nesting have more than 60% absolute cover and grasses are higher than 20 inches (51 cm). LPC favor mid- and tall grasses for nesting, such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), big bluestem (A. gerardi), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and in some locations western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii). Female LPC typically nest within two miles of a lek, but not necessarily the lek where they were captured.

Brood-rearing and Summer Habitat

Brood habitat is characterized as higher amount of forb cover and less grass cover than nesting sites. Broods have limited mobility, so shorter grasses are required for chicks to move easily on the ground. It is suggested that high quality brood habitat be close to nesting habitat (approximately 1,000 feet). Brood habitat typically also has a high level of insects, which populate the forb cover. Prescribed burning and grazing, herbicide application, and mechanical treatments are good tools for creating brood habitat, but can also reduce nesting habitat.

The LPC uses shrubs and shinnery oak for shade in the summer and times of high heat.

Winter and Autumn Habitat

Winter and autumn habitat is generally the same as nesting and brood-rearing habitat, but during this time the LPC will travel across larger areas. The LPC uses mixed-grass, sand sagebrush, or sand shinnery oak for resting and roosting while migrating throughout their range. LPC tend to prefer grasslands with <15% shrub cover, but it is not considered necessary to implement specific habitat management for autumn and winter habitat, so long as quality nesting and brood habitat is present.

Habitat Conservation

In order to conserve LPC habitat, policymakers have implemented a focus on strongholds. Strongholds are defined as areas that are sufficient size to support a viable population of LPC that are managed or set aside for long-term LPC conservation. It has been recommended that strongholds contain clusters of 6-10 leks that are located at a maximum of 1.2 miles apart. Research suggests a minimum size of 25,000 acres (10,118 ha) per cluster, if all of the area is high quality habitat.

Within strongholds there are focal areas, which are required to meet population goals, and connectivity zones which link focal areas together and are not required to meet population goals. The Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) is a decision support tool designed to identify focal areas and connectivity zones in order to facilitate coordinated efforts to enhance habitat conditions required to expand and sustain the species.

Habitat Specifications

Below are numerical descriptions that research has shown to be optimal for LPC habitat.

Plant communities with a substantial sand shinnery oak component:
Nesting habitat

  • Canopy cover of sand shinnery oak: 20% - 50%
  • Canopy cover of preferred grasses (native bluestems, switchgrass, indiangrass, and sideoats grama): >20%
  • Canopy cover of a good mix of species of native forbs: >10%
  • Variable grass heights that average: >15”
Brood habitat:
  • Canopy cover of sand shinnery oak: 10-25%
  • Canopy cover of preferred native grasses: >15%
  • Canopy cover of a mix of native forbs: >20%
  • Variable grass heights that average: >15
  • Shrub, grass and forb understory open enough to allow movements of chicks
Plant communities with a substantial sand sagebrush component:
Nesting habitat
  • Canopy cover of sand sagebrush: 15-30%
  • Canopy cover of preferred native grasses: >30%
  • Canopy cover of a mix of native forbs: >10%
  • Variable grass heights that average: >15”
Brood Habitat
  • Canopy cover of sand sagebrush: 10-25%
  • Canopy cover of preferred native grasses: >20%
  • Canopy cover of a mix of native forbs: >20%
  • Variable grass heights that average: >15”
  • Shrub, grass and forb understory open enough to allow movements of chicks
Native rangelands and CRP land without a substantial sand shinnery oak or sand sagebrush component:
Nesting habitat
  • Canopy cover of preferred native grasses: >50%
  • Canopy cover of a mix of native forbs: >10%
  • Variable grass heights that average between 15-22”
Brood habitat
  • Canopy cover of preferred native grasses: 30-50%
  • Canopy cover of a mix of native forbs: >20%
  • Variable grass heights that average between 15 -22”
  • Shrub, grass and forb understory open enough to allow movements of chicks.
Each property has a different capacity to provide quality LPC habitat, so it is important to consult with a local professional when creating habitat to support the LPC.