Landfills become bird sanctuaries

By Peter Kent

Drew LanhamFor grasshopper sparrows, landfills have become places of refuge, not refuse. Clemson naturalist Drew Lanham has found reclaimed landfills can provide homes for this imperiled species and other birds. On a trip to a landfill, Lanham heard the buzzing insect-like trill of a small, inconspicuous bird – the grasshopper sparrow. He worked with Oconee County solid-waste managers to survey birds on the reclaimed portion of the landfill.

Many species of grassland birds are declining as their habitats, such as pastures and open fields, are lost to development. But there may be novel opportunities for restoration and alternative habitat in places that often are ignored by conservationists.

“The grasshopper sparrow prefers weedy fields and meadows,” said Lanham. “Closed landfills are often planted with various weeds and grasses that would seem to provide suitable habitat for the grasshopper sparrow. This bird was once abundant in South Carolina but is now a species of concern.”

Lanham’s work at the landfill contributed to it being designated as a S.C. Wildlife Federation Wildlife and Industry Together site.

For information: Drew Lanham, 864-656-7294,