The Role of Grass Management on Airport Properties

Airport property serves as a wildlife sanctuary in an urban setting. Providing abundant sources of food and refuge, these spans of grassland and relatively undisturbed areas are frequently visited and inhabited by a broad array of migratory birds, small mammals and insects. Our study investigated the abundance of birds present across 15 airport properties over the course of the year in order to establish a standard grass height that will minimize the abundance of birds. Proper management of airport property minimizes the impact that wildlife communities have on aircraft. Our analysis concluded that bird abundance is greatest when grass is measured between 0 and 20cm regardless of location or time of year. When grass was Between 21 and 30cm in height, bird abundance dropped significantly regardless of the time of year. These results indicate that proper management of airport property should incorporate maximum and minimum heights of grassland to minimize wildlife populations on airport property. Our results further suggest that grass height should be maintained between 30 and 40cm to best deter birds from airport properties. -John Watterson, M.Sc, Wildlife Biologist, Loomacres Wildlife Management