Herbaceous buffers are strips of herbaceous vegetation planted between working agricultural land and streams or wetlands. Mowing is a common maintenance practice to control woody plants and noxious weeds in herbaceous buffers. Buffers enrolled in Maryland's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) cannot be mowed during the primary bird nesting season between 15 April and 15 August. Most mowing of buffers in Maryland occurs in late summer or fall, leaving the vegetation short until the following spring. We studied the response of wintering birds to fall mowing of buffers. We mowed one section to 10-15 cm in 13 buffers and kept another section unmowed. Ninety-two percent of birds detected in buffers were grassland or scrub-shrub species, and 98% of all birds detected were in unmowed buffers. Total bird abundance, species richness, and total avian conservation value were significantly greater in unmowed buffers, and Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), and White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) were significantly more abundant in unmowed buffers. Wintering bird use of mowed buffers was less than in unmowed buffers. Leaving herbaceous buffers unmowed through winter will likely provide better habitat for wintering birds. ?? 2011 by the Wilson Ornithological Society.
Additional publication details
Wintering bird response to fall mowing of herbaceous buffers