Wildlife Habitat in Grassed Waterways (Supplement to Job Sheet 412)
USDA – NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE – NORTH CAROLINA
Photo courtesy of Ken Taylor, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
While the primary purpose of grassed waterways is to serve as a stable conduit for water movement,
when designed and managed with wildlife considerations, they can be beneficial for species common
in grassy and brushy habitats, such as song sparrows, common yellowthroats, and cotton rats. Well-
managed grassed waterways may also provide foraging opportunities for typical forest wildlife, such
as whitetail deer, wild turkey, and red-tailed hawks. This job sheet will help you design a grassed
waterway that provides optimum wildlife habitat.
The importance of grassed waterways for wildlife include:
♦ The diversity of plants in a well-managed grassed waterway will increase the availability of food
resources such as seeds and insect prey (important for many wildlife species, e.g., during the first
few weeks of life, the diet of species like quail and turkey chicks is composed almost entirely of
♦ Grassed waterways provide links between forests and field interiors, expanding the amount of
useable wildlife habitat.
♦ Grassed waterways can provide important cover and loafing areas for many species of wildlife.
Grassed Waterway Establishment
♦ For wildlife habitat purposes, the ideal grassed waterway will appear unkempt and be composed of
a variety of plant species.
♦ A grassed waterway managed for wildlife will attain a height of 2-4 feet. It will be comprised of
planted species, for example, switchgrass and indian grass, as well as volunteer vegetation such as
blackberries, goldenrod, and broomsedge (See attached table of Wildlife Grassed Waterway
♦ The Southeast Quail Study Group recommends the following for replacing tall fescue with wildlife
Step 1: Mow,