US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Populations of grassland and shrub-steppe bird species are declining more precipitously than any other group of North American bird species (Peterjohn and Sauer 1999). Much of the decline appears associated with habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation of grassland and shrub-steppe habitats. Agricultural development is the greatest cause of grassland loss (Knopf 1994). Urban development and range management practices also contribute to loss of grasslands and biodiversity within remaining grasslands (Vickery et al. 1999, Fuhlendorf and Engle 2001). Because of the permanence and fragmenting nature of urban development, this form of grassland conversion may have more severe and longer-term negative effects than impacts such as agriculture (Marzluff and Ewing 2001). Although changes wrought by these forces have been occurring for some time, there is no clear understanding of their direct and indirect effects on grassland and shrub-steppe species. A more recent development in many grasslands is the expanding wind industry. The Great Plains, where most natural grasslands in North America occur, also has tremendous wind resources. Concerns arise about the direct effect of wind farms associated with bird strikes and the indirect effects due to habitat alteration and possible avoidance of wind farms by breeding birds. Relatively little is known about these issues.