Birds of grasslands 

Until the mid-1800's, prairies covered much of central North America. The tall prairie grasses were a favorite nesting place of many birds. Today, most prairies have been plowed under for use as cropland. The birds that have adjusted best to these changes are those that traditionally nest in other open areas in addition to prairies. Such birds include the American kestrel, dickcissel, horned lark, vesper sparrow, western kingbird, and western meadowlark. Today, these birds nest as readily in or near hayfields and other cultivated grasslands as they do in native prairies. Horned larks even nest on golf courses.

Some prairie birds have had great difficulty adjusting to the changes in their habitat. For example, prairie-chickens once ranked among the most numerous prairie birds. But prairie-chickens nest only among tall grasses. Today, they live only in the few remaining native prairies.

Dry grasslands, now used mostly for grazing cattle, cover much of the western parts of the United States and Canada. Birds that nest in these grasslands include the burrowing owl, lark bunting, scissor-tailed flycatcher, and Baird's sparrow. Except for the burrowing owl, these birds have fared better than many of the prairie birds because their nesting places have been less disturbed by agriculture. Burrowing owls traditionally nest in prairie dog burrows. Ranchers have regarded prairie dogs as pests, however, and have tried to destroy their burrows. In so doing, they have wiped out the nesting places of the owls.

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