Grassland and Prairie


Missouri’s native grasslands can be divided into two broad categories: prairie and savanna. Grasslands are similar in appearance to prairies, but were tilled at some point in the past. A true prairie has never seen the plow. In general, the tallgrass prairies of Missouri are open habitats of with sparse trees and shrubs. Savanna is a transitional habitat between open prairie and woodland, with more trees and shrubs than prairie, but not as much as a woodland. Missouri’s prairies have incredible plant diversity, and hundreds of species can be found even on a small area. This diversity of prairie plants contributes greatly to the success of Missouri’s grassland-dependent birds.

Characteristic Birds

Despite their limited size, Missouri’s grasslands provide essential habitat for many plant and animal species. Within the prairie habitats, characteristic bird species include the Henslow’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, Bobolink, Loggerhead Shrike, Dickcissel, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Brown Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, and Eastern Meadowlark. Savanna characteristic species are fewer, but include Red-headed Woodpecker and Northern Bobwhite.

  • Glaciated prairie has very deep, fertile soil, but this soil was deposited by glaciers during the last ice age. This rich prairie was mostly converted to farmland by settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries, and few unplowed tracts remain today.