U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

May 2007


Published in Human–Wildlife Conflicts 1(1):97–105, Spring 2007.


Vegetation-height management is a potential method to reduce bird numbers at airports. Based on studies in Europe, researchers recommended vegetation heights around 25 cm; however, preliminary studies in the United States produced conflicting results regarding the effect of tall (18 to >25 cm) vegetation on bird numbers at airports. From 1999 to 2002, we compared birds and other wildlife use of 4 short-vegetation plots (mean maximum height of 15.6 cm ± 5.1 SE and visual obstruction reading of 4.6 ± 3.0 cm) and 4 tall-vegetation plots (mean maximum height of 26.9 ± 8.4 cm and visual obstruction reading of 10.0 ± 5.0 cm) in Ohio. We surveyed bird use of the plots 2 to 3 times/week and observed 6,191 birds in short-vegetation plots and 5,962 birds in tall-vegetation plots. We detected no difference between short-vegetation and tall-vegetation plots in the probability of avian use of the plots when evaluated as a binary response of presence and absence. Small mammal capture rates in 100 adjusted trap nights were 0.0 in short-vegetation plots and 0.3 in tall-vegetation plots. We found no difference in the number of deer observed in the plots during sunset and spotlighting counts. There was slightly greater insect biomass in tall-than in short-vegetation plots. Mowing negatively affected small mammal use. The generalization that tall vegetation (18 to >25 cm) alone would reduce bird use of an airport is not supported by the results of this study. Further research on vegetation density, composition, palatability, and nutritional value is necessary to accommodate airfield requirements for habitat that is pleasing to the public and repellent to wildlife.