Wildlife & Habitat

Prairie Flower

Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for a number of grassland dependent wildlife species.

  • Dakota Skipper

    Dakota Skipper

    The Dakota skipper is a species of butterfly native to the tallgrass and mixed grass prairies of the northern Great Plains. It faces the loss and degradation of its prairie habitat due to changing land uses practices across the region. Refuges like the Northern Tallgrass Prairie offer an oasis of needed habitat for the Dakota skipper. This butterfly inhabits wet lowland prairie dominated by bluestem grasses and dry upland prairie.

  • Grasshopper Sparrow

    Grasshopper Saprrow

    The grasshopper sparrow is a secretive bird found on the open prairie. This sparrow is more often heard than seen. It gets its name not only from its diet, but also from its insect-like song.

  • Greater Prairie Chicken

    Greater Prairie Chicken Hen

    The greater prairie chicken, an iconic prairie bird, was once abundant across the prairie landscape, but the loss of most of our native prairie has also brought the loss of this species in much of its historic range. Prairie chickens are famous for their spring mating displays. In late March and early April, males congregate on communal sites called leks or “booming grounds”. They raise ear-like feathers above their heads, inflate orange sacs on the sides of their throats, and stutter-step around while making a deep hooting moan to attract females.

  • Tallgrass Prairie

    Northern Tallgrass Prairie

    The tallgrass prairie ecosystem is dominated by native grasses that are often 3- 6 feet tall. The prairie contains an immense variety of grasses and wildflowers, but the most dominant species defining the prairie are big bluestem, Indian grass and switch grass. The prairie landscape is mostly treeless. Due to the deep, rich, fertile soil that supports this expanse of grass, the prairie was easily transformed into crop land as it was settled. From a historic range of about 25 million acres in Minnesota and Iowa alone, only about 300,000 acres of the original tallgrass prairie remains today. The refuge strives to protect, conserve and restore as much of our native prairie as possible.