The Flint Hills
is an area of east-central
Kansas with a unique
character. It is a high, wide, gently rolling landscape blanketed with
the largest continuous area of tallgrass prairie left in the world.
This page of the Natural Kansas website highlights the best sites for
wildlife watching in the Flint Hills.
The animals inhabiting the tallgrass prairie are as
unique as their habitat.
photo by Bob Gress
During summer, watch for dickcissels
singing from fence wires and tall weeds. They have a bright yellow
breast with a small black bib. These sparrow-size birds winter in
The upland sandpiper is a distinctive
member of the Flint Hills fauna. Their ethereal bubbling call is
often heard before the bird is seen. They are a migrant, present
only during the warm months.
photo by Dave Rintoul
Bison at Maxwell Refuge
photo by Jim Mason
The bison that formerly inhabited this landscape no
longer roam free, but you may visit them at Maxwell Refuge. There, in
fact, you may take a tram ride out into the middle of the herd!
Regal Fritillary butterflies are only found in the
tallgrass prairie, and may be observed in June-July nectaring at flowers and
chasing each other in nuptial flights or territorial disputes. Dozens
of other butterfly species are found here also.
Regal Fritillaries on Butterfly Milkweed
photo by Pete Janzen
Mike Blair of Kansas Wildlife and Parks celebrates
the beauty of the Flint Hills in this video.
For more videos from this series, see the
The prairie is more than grass. Over
800 different kinds of wildflowers bloom in Kansas! The flower show in
the tallgrass prairie begins in March and proceeds in an ever-changing
pageant of color and form through October. A ramble through the fields
at any of the wildlife watching sites listed here will
produce delights for the careful observer, but many beautiful blooms may be
seen along the roadside too.
There are two peak times for wildflower
variety - mid-May through June and August through mid-September. As
with any other plants, the weather pattern determines the sequence and vigor
of blooms for any given species. Timely rains and an abundance of
sunshine in this month and cool weather and drought in that month will make
a big difference in what can be seen during those times. Every year is
different! The wildflowers shown below are just a few of the beauties
awaiting you in the Flint Hills.
In spring, watch the rocky outcrops
and cutbanks for ROSE VERBENA.
It grows in low clumps and has a very pleasant fragrance. Its
clusters of light purple flowers are a favorite nectar source for
In May-June the extravagant blossoms
Missouri Evening Primroselight up the roadsides. Often growing out of cracks in exposed
rock formations, its petals extend more than 3 inches in width.
The flowers open overnight and fade the following
day. The faded blooms are an attractive salmon orange.
CONEFLOWER is an early summer bloomer in the tallgrass
prairie. A member of the sunflower family, it is the prairie
cousin of Black-eyed Susans.
CLOVER decorates the fields with its unusual violet
flower clusters in summer.
Extending nearly 200 miles from near the Nebraska
border on the north into Oklahoma on the south, the Flint Hills reach
their greatest width just south of the Kansas River, about 80 miles.
They owe their existence to the nodules of
chert (flint) laid down with the limestones and shales in the
shallow seas which covered this part of North America during
the early Permian Period over 275
million years ago.
Chert is a very hard mineral and was
prized by the Native American tribes as an ideal material for making
arrowheads, spear points and cutting tools. The
presence of this hard, weather-resistant
mineral in the underlying rock formations slowedthe process of erosion, leaving
this area higher than the surrounding countryside. Italso prevented this ground from being broken out for
agriculture, unlike the tallgrass prairies of Iowa and other locations
further east. As a result,the Flint Hillsregionremains as the largest unplowed remnant of
tallgrass prairie in the world.
more about the geology of the Flint Hills,
visit the GeoKansas
website, listed in the Links below.
Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use
requires written permission. If you are a Kansas resident, please
assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs
by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.