Bird Habitat Management Program

A Haven for Nesting Grassland Birds

Grasslands are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including some of our rarest birds. Many of these birds need large patches of grassland habitat to breed successfully. With some minor modifications in management, airports can provide some excellent habitat for these ground-nesting birds. For the last two years, the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport has worked with the City of Ann Arbor’s Natural Area Preservation unit and Washtenaw Audubon Society to protect grassland birds by asking the airport staff to delay springtime mowing in non-critical areas on the airport grounds. Most species of grassland birds are in decline across the U.S., but the species of particular concern in our area are Bobolinks (a male Bobolink is pictured above), Henslow’s Sparrows, and Grasshopper Sparrows, all of which have nested at the municipal airport here in Ann Arbor.

Each spring, members of the Natural Area Preservation staff survey the airport grounds to determine where birds are nesting, so that airport staff can delay mowing in those areas as long as safety issues are not compromised. Most species have had the opportunity to nest and raise their young by the second week in July, when the normal mowing schedule is resumed. While the appearance of inconsistent mowing at the airport generates questions for some, most people are pleased to know that the airport is working to provide much-needed nesting habitat for grassland birds. The airport has found a successful balance between environmental stewardship and maintaining airport safety, which is always the number one priority.

2010 Mowing Season Plan