From the chatter of songbirds in the morning to the sight of a solitary hawk hunting in the evening, birds can play a wonderful role in our golf experiences. They are also a critical part of our ecosystem that is under threat from development, habitat loss and various other challenges. While golf courses are not a large land use in the context of the United States, they still account for approximately 2 million acres nationwide, including some of the last large open spaces in many urban and suburban areas. This means that the potential for supporting a wide variety of bird species on golf courses is significant. With recent research suggesting that the total number of birds in North America has declined by nearly 30% since 1970 – a net population loss approaching 3 billion birds (Rosenberg et al., 2019) – finding ways to make our golf courses more valuable as bird habitat is arguably more important than ever.
Fortunately, many of the most beneficial ways to support birds mesh nicely with ongoing efforts at many courses to reduce resource consumption, improve maintenance efficiency, offer activities beyond golf, and increase engagement with golfers and the surrounding community. Taking the following steps will help you support birds and ecosystem health at your golf course, and possibly improve the bottom line as well.
Understanding Your Site
Developing a good understanding of the birds that currently inhabit your site, or are likely to inhabit your site, is an important first step. This information guides planning and points you to actions that will have the most positive impact (Kress 2006, McKinney and Nightingale 2013). A good starting point is visiting websites like eBird that provide up-to-date information about the birds people are seeing in your area. However, the information on website databases may not cover the specific habitats of your golf course. Connecting with local chapters of the National Audubon Society and other birding groups is a great way to obtain more site-specific information.