Grassland Animals

  • Animals have been arranged below into sections, Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Insects.
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The American Badger (Taxidea taxus) is a large member of the weasel family. In Ontario they are primarily restricted to areas along the north shore of Lake Erie and in the northwest along the Minnesota border. A distinguishing white stripe extends over the back of the head from the upturned snout to the rump. In northern populations the stripe ends near the shoulders. Badgers are nocturnal and prefer open grasslands with sandy loam soils where they can more easily dig for prey which includes ground hogs and voles. Badgers are solitary animals. They have powerful forelimbs that allow them to dig rapidly through soil. Abandoned badger burrows provide important habitat for a variety of grassland species including snakes. The badger is a threatened species within Ontario.


Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is a small plump member of the quail family. It was once a common bird in rural Ontario, living in prairies, savannas, farms, brushy open areas and along the edges of woodlands. It is named for its loud distinctive call or whistle which resembles “bob white!” This ground-dwelling bird is about 20 cm (8 in) in size with a short dark tail. The male has a conspicuous white throat and white brow stripe while in the female, these are buff coloured. Northern Bobwhite are year round residents. Today, the only relatively stable population occurs on Walpole Island. It is a ground forager and ground nester. Efforts to re-introduce the Bobwhite to Ontario are ongoing.

Henslow’s Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) is an inconspicuous bird of the prairie grasslands. It is mostly brown with a pale olive green head and hind neck, chestnut wings, brown and black streaked back, large head and short tail. It is often detected by its song, a simple, two-syllable ‘tsi-lick.’ It sings at dawn and dusk and sometimes all night. Its preferred habitat are large open fields of tall grasses with a dense litter layer and standing dead vegetation that have not been extensively invaded by shrubs. This sparrow moves to new locations when its habitat is altered by plant succession. Population numbers have declined steadily over the past few decades because of habitat loss.


The Eastern Fox Snake (Elaphe vulpina gloydi) range from 91-183cm (3-6ft) in length when it is mature. They are yellowish in colour with dark brown blotches along their back and sides. The head can be brown to reddish, while the belly is yellow and checkered with black. It feeds primarily on small mammals, frogs, and birds. These snakes are docile and harmless but are often killed by people who mistake them for the venomous Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) which also now rare due to persecution. The Eastern Fox snake lives in oak savannas, prairies and lakeside marshes within the Great Lakes basin. It is a threatened species in Ontario.


Mottled Duskywing (Erynnis martialis) – This small butterfly has a wingspan of 2.9-4.2cm (1 1/8-1 5/8in). The upper side of the wings are brown with irregular dark bands that give it a mottled appearance. The caterpillars feed almost exclusively on New Jersey tea while the adults take nectar from plants such as hoary vervain and gromwell. This butterfly is found in savannas, open woodlands, prairie hills and open brushy fields and is considered very rare in Ontario.