posted on June 15, 2005 00:00
Pheasants Forever (PF) encourages landowners and counties to consider wildlife before starting their mowers this summer. Ground-nesting birds like pheasants, ducks, songbirds, quail, and gray partridge are particularly vulnerable to mowing until August 1st when most nesting is complete.
“Letting grasslands grow at this time of the year is extremely important to the success of all ground nesting birds,” explains Tom Schwartz, PF’s director of conservation programs for Illinois. “Delaying roadside mowing, in particular, is important to nesting success. People see ducks, pheasants, and song birds along roadsides all the time, but few realize the importance of roadside wildlife habitat.”
As urban sprawl and intensified agriculture gobble up prairies and grasslands, roadsides continue to form an extensive network of grassy corridors providing nesting, brooding, and winter cover for a variety of wildlife populations. Mowing is especially harmful to incubating birds close to hatching. Adults are reluctant to leave the nest even if approached by a tractor or mower. A wildlife research study on pheasants found that more than 70 percent of all hens killed or injured on the nest were hit between June 10 and July 1. Delaying mowing until August will allow these adults and their broods to reach a stage where they are able to escape such threats.
“Where possible, roadside mowing should be eliminated year round,” adds Andy Edwards, PF’s regional biologist for Indiana. “Not only are these grasses important during brood rearing, but grasses that remain standing through the winter provide excellent cover for nesters come spring. Obviously, some mowing is necessary for visibility and snow drifting issues, but the majority of roadsides should be just left alone to fulfill their potential as wildlife habitat. If mowing must be done, it should be limited to the first ten feet off the road’s shoulder.”
A variety of government entities manage roadsides around the country. PF supports state and county policies that delay or eliminate mowing of road ditches as a means of preserving upland wildlife habitat. In that light, PF encourages people concerned about wildlife to contact their local government division in charge of roadside mowing and ask them to delay or stop activities that will reduce habitat or harm wildlife. Spot spraying for noxious weeds is the best alternative to mowing for improving nesting habitat along these roadsides and lanes.
PF is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. Such efforts benefit landowners and wildlife alike. PF has more than 110,000 members in over 600 local chapters across the continent. To learn more about PF, call toll free (877)773-2070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.