The Bendix Meadows Important Bird Area is an approximate 1000-acre property located in extreme north-central Indiana along the western edge of the city of South Bend. The IBA is composed of two major components - Bendix Meadows, which was formerly the St. Joseph County landfill, and the South Bend Regional Airport. Both sections are owned and maintained by the local airport authority.
Despite its past and current uses, the Bendix Meadow IBA maintains one of the most significant patches of grassland habitats in the region. Consequently, the suite of breeding birds present on the properties encompasses several species of conservation concern, including Upland Sandpiper and Henslow's Sparrow, as well as those which would otherwise be considered scarce in this highly-developed section of the state.
The Bendix Meadows Important Bird Area is one of the most significant sites in north-central Indiana for obligate grassland birds and, specifically, supports the largest known breeding population of Upland Sandpipers in this region of the state. Members of the South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society, who perform weekly breeding bird surveys on the property, estimate that upwards of three or four breeding pairs of Upland Sandpipers nest in this large, isolated grassland.
A variety of other conservation-priority species can also be found at the Bendix Meadow IBA during the nesting season. WatchList species that utilize this area include American Woodcock, Willow Flycatcher, Dickcissel, and Henslow's Sparrow. Various other declining songbirds are also supported by this grassland habitat including Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark.
The most significant threat to the grasslands birds which utilize the Bendix Meadows Important Bird Area is the potential disturbances to birds from aircraft and the compulsory habitat management regime of the local airport authority. As with any airport, concerns regarding aircraft collisions with bird species are of primary importance, and such considerations may result in the selective, intentional decrease of grassland biomes within the South Bend Regional Airport via consistent and repetitive mowing or permanent removal of large patches of herbaceous cover. These practices, if conducted in the future, would virtually eliminate the population of Upland Sandpipers, a state-endangered bird species and rare nester throughout Indiana, from this IBA.
Fortunately, in recent years, the airport authority has taken a few proactive steps to alleviate potential bird-aircraft collision problems while still maintaining some of its significant ground cover. For instance, managers have hired professional falconers to utilize birds of prey as a natural means to harass resident birds away from critical areas around or adjacent to the airstrip. However, these actions provided only limited success, and, given many airports' desires to maintain a monoculture of short vegetation amongst their facilities, intensified grounds maintenance is still a significant future concern.
Since a large portion of the Bendix Meadow IBA also encompasses a former county landfill, resultant pollution or contamination from waste or fill is also a consideration. Maintaining the current ground cover to help alleviate erosion may prevent exposure to surrounding wetlands and other sensitive habitats from such waste or associated toxins.