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Plants and Animals:
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provide important habitat for a wide variety of birds. Habitat loss
and fragmentation are threatening bird populations throughout the
world. In Illinois, most of the land that formerly supported
prairie is under cultivation or densely populated. Some of the
grassland birds have been able to adapt to changing land use by
utilizing pastures and hayfields. Pastures at Midewin provide
valuable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds. Although the
ultimate goal is the restoration of original prairie, bird habitat
will be retained. The restoration burning regime will rotate and
hayfields will remain on the site long enough for tallgrass prairie
to develop as a suitable habitat. Different pastures can be grazed
intermittently to provide an artificially disturbed short grass
environment until native grazers are introduced or before drier
sites are restored.
The large and diverse habitats at Midewin support several populations of rare and area-sensitive birds at the site. At least 108 species of birds breed at Midewin (Glass, 1994), and 25 of these require a specific habitat for survival. Of these resident bird species, four are threatened in Illinois, and two are endangered. In addition, under consideration for federally endangered status are the Loggerhead Shrike and the Cerulean Warbler which breed at Midewin. A number of migratory birds with declining populations also use Midewin.
The Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), which has been declining throughout its range, breeds in short grasslands; at Midewin it nests in grazed areas with scattered shrubs. This bird uses thorny shrubs, such as hawthorn (Crataegus), to impale its prey, such as crayfish and insects. Bells Vireo (Vireo bellii) also requires shrub lands in order to survive.
The many wet depressions at Midewin attract a number of wetland birds. Threatened species at the site include the King Rail (Rallus elegans), Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), and the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus). The Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), an Illinois endangered species, uses the wetlands at Midewin for foraging, as does the Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) and numerous ducks and geese.
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