Delayed Mowing Can Help Save Wildlife

Chris Young
Delayed Mowing Can Help Save Wildlife
SPRINGFIELD, IL – To help save grassland birds and help other wildlife, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is encouraging landowners and land managers to delay mowing roadsides, field edges, and other grassland areas this spring and summer.

May, June and July are very important months for many different kinds of wildlife in Illinois. These months are the peak of the nesting season for most species of birds. Game species like wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, and northern bobwhite quail nest in grassy waterways, pastures, hayfields, and on roadsides. Other species like dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, bobolink, and eastern kingbird also nest during this time frame.

When the mowers come out during the nesting season, they often destroy eggs, nests, and also kill incubating hens. Some mowing is essential to public safety at intersections and other areas where visibility simply cannot be obscured. Some mowing is also essential for farmers putting up hay for livestock. More commonly, roadsides are mowed strictly for looks.

“If landowners and tenants could delay mowing roadsides, field edges, and other grassy or weedy areas until August, there would be a lot more wildlife around in the fall,” said IDNR Upland Wildlife Program Manager Stan McTaggart.  “In addition, delayed mowing can save fuel, reduce wear and tear on equipment, and save time for other farm work.”
Ring-necked pheasants in central Illinois are already incubating nests, and they should be hatching at the end of May or the first part of June.  Quail will also begin hatching their first broods in mid-June. Both of these species will readily re-nest if their first attempts fail, often pushing hatch dates back until the end of July.

“We would just like to remind everyone to please put off all non-essential mowing until the beginning or middle of August,” McTaggart added. “The birds need all the help we can give them. Thank you for your help!”

IDNR Mowing Recommendations
• DO NOT MOW during the peak nesting season from May 1 – August 1;
• Leave the outer 100 feet of hayfields standing (on at least two sides);
• Mow hayfields from the center to the outside to avoid trapping wildlife;
• Do not mow after October 1 to leave some cover for wildlife over the winter.
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