Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Avian Inventory of Tallgrass Prairie
National Preserve, Kansas, 1998-1999
Two centuries ago, tallgrass prairie covered the midcontinent of North America
from Mexico to Canada. At that time, prairie ecosystems were maintained by periodic
fires, grazing by large mammals, and frequent droughts (Knopf and Sampson 1997).
As European settlers moved west, natural fires were suppressed, livestock replaced
native grazers, and much of the prairie habitat was converted to agricultural
use. It is estimated that only 1 to 4% of presettlement native tallgrass prairie
remains today (Heibert 1998). Most of the surviving tallgrass prairie is found
within the Flint Hills of Kansas. Loss and fragmentation of prairie habitats
have resulted in widespread declines of grassland bird species (Herkert et al.
1993, Knopf 1994). Grassland birds are declining more rapidly and consistently
than any other guild of North American birds (Fig. 1; Sauer et al. 1999). Seventy
percent of grassland bird species monitored by the National Breeding Bird Survey
(BBS) have declined significantly over the past 30 years, and many other grassland
bird species have shown negative population trends that are cause for concern
(Peterjohn 1994). In addition, the status of grassland birds on many National
Park Service (NPS) areas is unknown.
|Figure 1. Population trends for the grassland-bird
guild within North America, 1966-1996 (Sauer et al. 1999).
Baseline inventories and long-term ecological monitoring programs are needed
to monitor grassland bird population trends in NPS areas. In 1997, the NPS
identified grassland birds as a high-priority research need within the Midwest
Region of the NPS system. This report includes the results of a baseline inventory
of birds, including those species associated with grassland habitats, at Tallgrass
Prairie National Preserve (TAPR), Kansas. We describe which bird species utilize
TAPR and provide baseline data for comparison with future surveys at the preserve.
In addition, we describe the grassland habitats of breeding birds at TAPR.
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