Kevin Ellison

Grasslands Ecologist, Northern Great Plains

Kevin  Ellison
Media inquiries: News And Press Page

Kevin has more than 25 years of experience conducting research in avian ecology. Originally from relatively Tallgrass remnant-rich northern Illinois, Kevin developed an interest in cowbirds -species that lay their eggs in the nests of other species to be raised while the cowbirds follow the large grazers that they forage alongside. Kevin’s work on cowbirds led him to degrees for work in California and Texas. In 2005, Kevin returned to the Great Plains to conduct post-doctoral research on the responses of grassland birds to the removal of tree rows and used mini-cameras at nests to identify predators. In 2008-2013, Kevin studied relationships between grassland birds and grazing management in Montana, the Dakotas, and Saskatchewan. He started working for WWF in 2013. 

Kevin works with WWF’s NGP Science and Sustainable Ranching Initiative teams, assessing grassland bird data from the levels of species’ populations down to individual ranches. Working with over 50 ranchers in the region, Kevin is conducting surveys of grassland birds to quantify the benefits of ranching for grassland birds. Kevin has banded many grassland birds for studies of habitat use and to track migrations with geolocators. Kevin also serves on several graduate student committees focused on grassland bird projects.

Kevin has published over 30 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed publications. A majority of his research has focused on bird nesting ecology, nest predation, video monitoring of nests, cowbird ecology, bison ecology, climate adaptation and vulnerability in grasslands, habitat management, grassland bird migrations, and the development of livestock management practices that conserve habitats for wildlife. Kevin and his research have appeared on PBS programs and All Bird TV.

“Birds are excellent indicators of ecosystem health -therefore it is of concern that four species of grassland songbirds have declined by over 75% since the 1960s. These ‘canaries of the prairies’ indicate that habitat loss and degradation is threatening North America’s largest terrestrial ecosystem. WWF is working with ranching communities to help sustain their stewardship of grasslands and prevent conversion of grasslands to land unsuitable for wildlife.”

More on Kevin


Grasslands Ecologist


  • Ph.D. Zoology, University of Manitoba
  • M.S. Ecology, University of California-Riverside
  • B.S. Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Areas of Expertise

  • Grassland birds
  • Nesting ecology
  • Migration
  • Grazing and wildlife
  • Brood parasitism/cowbirds