Management suitable for grassland birds

What use are the most beautiful bog pools if the area is not managed to suit the breeding habits of grassland birds? Why uncover a riverbank if use of the area is not adjusted?


The fact is that without sensibly adapting the agricultural use of these grasslands, many of the other measures in the project become non-starters. Our target species among the breeding grassland birds cope neither with unused, fast and tall-growing vegetation nor intensively managed meadows and pastures.


On the inundated floodplain, new nutrients wash over the area with each new flood, prompting the growth of lush vegetation. However, if vegetation is allowed to grow too densely, it leads to condensation or excess dew formation that can soak and chill many juvenile birds, and also limits their mobility as a result of the obstacle posed by vegetation cover that is too dense. However, it is only possible to mow the area later to ensure there is no risk to nests and chicks.


On the other hand, grazing ensures the grassland is “worked” appropriately. Grazing animals do not graze as uniformly nor as quickly as mowers, but instead create areas of vegetation at different heights and densities suitable for every species of grassland bird. Juvenile birds can also dodge the hooves of the grazing animals, whereas they will never manage to evade a mower. Of course, it is vital that there are not too many “grass eaters” treading across the land, as adapted grazing means extensive grazing.



On the grassland of the project area, extensive grazing is done by cattle and horses. A new kind of grazers are water buffaloes. Six of these interesting animals have been purchased for the project. They are adapted to marsh areas and have a preference for water.  By grazing they will prevent that bog pools and water banks will be overgrown by shrubs, which is important for grassland birds such as redshank, black-tailed godwit and northern lapwing.


Some areas might benefit from a maintenance cut in late summer once the breeding birds have moved on. Other areas will eventually require some manure if the turf becomes too sparse. This will then ensure that the grassland is in good condition for both birds and land managers alike.


In conclusion, a great deal of flexibility and instinct is needed when managing the land.