The Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds

Professional Paper 1842
Edited by: Douglas H. JohnsonLawrence D. IglJill A. Shaffer, and John P. DeLong



Since the mid-1960s, populations of grassland birds have been declining more precipitously than any other group of birds in North America. These long-term declines highlight the need to better understand the habitat requirements of grassland birds and how management practices affect individual species and their habitats. Although resource managers have long recognized that every management approach contains inherent advantages and disadvantages, depending on the species in question, they are often faced with making critical management decisions armed with little or no information. The need for information on management and its effects on grassland birds was identified by the U.S. Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, a part of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, in support of its objective to stabilize or increase populations of declining grassland- and wetland-associated wildlife species in the Prairie Pothole Region. In 1996, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center began a long-term, collaborative effort to review and synthesize literature on the effects of management practices on grassland bird species. Major funding for this effort was provided by the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey; additional funding was provided by the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Plains and Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperative. This compendium on “The Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds” is a culmination of that work. More than 6,000 published and unpublished publications have been consulted and several thousand publications have been incorporated and synthesized in species accounts for 40 North American grassland bird species. The 40 species represent a taxonomically diverse group that includes grouse, shorebirds, owls, diurnal raptors, and many songbirds. The focus of this effort is on management of breeding habitat, with an emphasis on the Great Plains. The accounts provide land managers with a summary of information on the effects of specific management practices on grassland birds and help to identify the most critical research gaps in our understanding of grassland bird ecology, habitat needs, and responses to management practices.

This compendium is organized into three primary sections: an introduction, species accounts, and a concluding chapter. The introduction provides an overview of grasslands, the processes under which grasslands formed, the influence of anthropogenic changes to grasslands, the effects of those changes on grassland bird populations, and the management tools available to land managers. The bulk of this compendium is the individual species accounts, covering 40 species of North American grassland birds arranged in taxonomic order. Each species account includes information on species range, suitable breeding habitat, area requirements and landscape associations, breeding-season phenology, species’ response to management, and management recommendations. Information on rates of brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) in grassland bird nests is summarized in a chapter at the end of this report. The final chapter includes concluding remarks concerning habitat requirements and management effects on grassland birds.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, D.H., Igl, L.D., Shaffer, J.A., and DeLong, J.P., eds., 2019, The effects of management practices on grassland birds (ver. 1.2, June 2023): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1842,

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Chapters
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The effects of management practices on grassland birds
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1842
DOI 10.3133/pp1842
Edition Version 1.0: July 26, 2019; Version 1.1: March 31, 2022; Version 1.2: June 21, 2023
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 18 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details