Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) assessed June 2010 by COSSARO as Extirpated
June 2010

Part 1

Current designations:

GRANKG4; last reviewed 2000
NRANK Canada – NX; last reviewed 2000
COSEWIC – Extirpated; April 2010
SARA – Extirpated (Schedule 1)
General Status Canada – Extirpated
ESA 2007 – Extirpated
General Status Ontario – Extirpated

Distribution and status outside Ontario:

The Greater Prairie Chicken formerly occurred from southwestern Ontario and the southern part of the Prairie Provinces. It still occurs in the tallgrass prairie area of the United States from North Dakota and Minnesota south to Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Eligibility criteria

Native status

✔ Yes. Prior to European settlement the Greater Prairie-Chicken was widespread through the Great Plains of Central North America extending into Ontario.

Taxonomic distinctness

✔ Yes. Three subspecies have been recognized for the Greater Prairie-Chicken (American Ornithologists' Union 1998)

Designatable units

May formerly have been several Designatable Units (southwestern Ontario, Manitoulin Island, and northwestern Ontario), but all are now extirpated.

Priority-setting criteria

Recent arrival

✔ No


✔ No

Primary criteria (rarity and declines)

  1. Global Rank
    ✔ Not in any category.
  2. Global Decline
    END. Extirpated in more than 50% of its original global range
  3. Northeastern North America Ranks
    END. Identified as S1, S2, SH or SX in 10 of 11 jurisdictions (91%).
  4. Northeastern North America Decline
    END. Extirpated in more than 50% of its original global range
  5. Ontario Occurrences
    EXT. The Ontario populations became extirpated in the 1970s (Lumsden 2005).
  6. Ontario Decline
    EXT. The Ontario populations have been extirpated since the 1970s (Lumsden 2005).
  7. Ontario’s Conservation Responsibility
    ✔ Not in any category. – Ontario contained considerably less than 10% of the global range.

Secondary criteria (threats and vulnerability)

  1. Population Sustainability
  2. Lack of Regulatory Protection for Exploited Wild Populations
    ✔ Not in any category. The Greater Prairie-Chicken is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.
  3. Direct Threats
    END The threats which led to extirpation of the species in Ontario are still present, namely lack of sufficient extensive tracts of tall grass prairie habitat and presence of Sharp-tailed Grouse which hybridized with it. Pesticide use may result in increased mortality and sub-lethal effects.
  4. Specialized Life History or Habitat-use Characteristics
    END It requires extensive tracts of tallgrass prairie habitat to sustain a population.

COSSARO criteria met (primary/secondary)

Extirpated – [2/1]
Endangered – [3/2]
Threatened – [0/0]
Special concern – [0/0]


This species originally occurred in southwestern Ontario, temporarily expanded its range east to Lake Simcoe, but had disappeared from southwestern Ontario in 1920s. It also occurred in Lake of the Woods area and on Manitoulin Island, where it persisted until about 1970. Extirpation resulted from habitat loss and hybridization with Sharp-tailed Grouse. It was considered extirpated in Canada in 1978. The bird still persists in some states of the American Great Plains. The population adjacent to northwestern Ontario does not provide a likely rescue effect because large areas of suitable habitat are required for the species to persist. The species is Extirpated in Ontario.

Information sources

American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check list of North American birds, 7th ed. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC, USA.

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC). 2006. Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada. (Accessed: May 18, 2010)

Lumsden, H. G. 2005. Plumage and internal morphology of the "Prairie Grouse", Tympanuchus cupido x phasianellus, of Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist 119 (4): 515-524.

NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: May 18, 2010).

Appendix 1

Northeastern North America rank, status and decline

CTNot present
DENot present
LBNot present
MANot present
MDNot present
MENot present
NBNot present
NFNot present
NHNot present
NJNot present
NSNot present
NYNot present
PENot present
QCNot present
RINot present
VANot present
VTNot present
WVNot present

Occurs as a native species in 11 of 28 northeastern jurisdictions

SRANK or equivalent information available for 11 of 11 jurisdictions = (100%) S1, S2, SH, or SX in 10 of 11 = (91%)

Part 2

Ontario evaluation using COSEWIC criteria

Regional (Ontario) COSEWIC criteria assessment

Criterion A – Declining population


Criterion B – Small distribution and decline or fluctuation


Criterion C – Small population size and decline


Criterion D – Very small or restricted


Criterion E – Quantitative analysis


Rescue effect

Unlikely. Immigrants probably would be adapted to survive in Ontario. Although the species occurs within 200 km of the Ontario border, Minnesota populations are declining. Rescue is highly unlikely.