More than a quarter of the land in the continental United States is grasslands, primarily consisting of hayfields, pastures, and rangelands but also natural grasslands, such as short, mixed, and tallgrass prairies. Almost half of Alaska is a mix of grass, shrubs, and wetlands called tundra; because dry, grassy tundra is the most dominant type, it is also included here. Grasslands are threatened by overgrazing, conversion to croplands, frequent haying, field abandonment and a lack of fire (both of which encourage woody growth), invasive plants, resource extraction, and urbanization.
Figure 1. Of the 47 grassland bird species, 31 are green species, six are yellow WatchList, and ten are red WatchList. This is the highest proportion of red WatchList species for any of the major habitat types.
Characteristic of grassy fields and prairies, the population of Eastern Meadowlarks has declined by 66% to about 10 million individuals.
The population of the Bobolink, which nests in hayfields and other northern U.S. grasslands, has fallen to about 11 million birds—half its earlier numbers.
This owl no longer nests in many of the grasslands where it used to breed, and its population has decreased by 69 percent, to about 2.4 million birds.
The Greater Prairie-Chicken has disappeared completely from many states; in only a few of them are the 700,000 birds left stable or increasing in population.
Figure 2. According to the Breeding Bird Survey data from 1966 to 2003, 23 of 27 grassland species are declining, and there is no trend information for 20 species.
Additional Yellow WatchList Species in grassland habitats:
Additional Red WatchList Species in grassland habitats: