Important Bird Areas

Stuttgart Municipal Airport

Arkansas

Located in the Grand Prairie region of eastern Arkansas. Stuttgart Municipal Airport is located 7.2 miles north of Stuttgart, AR along State Highway 11/US Highway 63. It is a 4 square mile block bounded by Highway 11 on the east, CR 2 (Prislovsky Rd) on the north, CR 46 on the west, and CR 907 on the south. It was built as an Air Force training facility during WWII. The old hangers have been torn down and are now grassland of varying quality. The airport has a north-south and an east-west runway and several taxiways whose grassy borders are mowed periodically. This site is surrounded by agricultural fields. Konecny Prairie Natural Area is 1.5 miles away. Roth Prairie Natural Area is 10 miles away.

Ornithological Summary

This site protects remnant prairie-shrub habitat and its bird community. Few sites in the state harbor Smith?s Longspurs because few sites have large expanses dominated by low-growing Aristida spp. (three-awn grass) in an entirely open landscape. Smith?s Longspurs prefer this habitat during the winter and eat Aristida seeds. Small numbers of American Bittern, Cooper?s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, and Rusty Blackbird overwinter. Small numbers of Bell?s Vireo and Painted Bunting breed. Northern Bobwhite are resident. Sprague?s Pipit and Henslow?s Sparrow are rare, irregular winter visitors. Birders are asked to visit with airport staff before birding. The staff have important safety information and can direct birders to target species. This courtesy also helps maintain friendly relations between birders and the City of Stuttgart and thus maintains open access for birders.

Conservation Issues

Restoration of grassland following runway construction was accompanied by major soil disturbance that was then reseeded with non-native grasses, especially bermuda grass. These non-native grasses spread to adjacent areas where Aristida was established. Loss of Aristida means loss of Smith?s Longspur habitat.
More than 95% of the Arkansas Grand Prairie has been converted to cropland. Prairie remnants on the airport have degraded and need disturbance (e.g. fire, control of exotics) to restore the native tallgrass prairie community. However, the shrub component of the prairie should be maintained for Bell?s Vireo and Painted Bunting.
Arkansas Forestry Commission has used prescribed burning and herbiciding to restore prairie. Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the City of Stuttgart have an agreement to conduct prairie restoration through prescribed burning, chemical herbicide application, rubble removal, mechanical removal of woody plants, and seed production and propagation of local genotype prairie plants. The plan includes restoration of 131 acres to Aristida. Bird and vegetation surveys are being conducted before and after restoration activities.

Ownership

The property is a municipal airport owned by the City of Stuttgart.

Habitat

The airport is situated in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas. Patches of native prairie dominated by indian grass, little bluestem, and eastern gamma grass occur within blocks of disturbed, non-native grassland dominated by bermuda grass. Shrub patches also occur within the grassland blocks. Grasses bordering the runways are kept short by periodic mowing. Bermuda grass dominates these areas, but patches of Aristida (three-awn grass) occur on the poor soils as well. Rice, soybean, winter wheat, and milo are grown on the property, and there is a small community garden as well. Reservoirs and ditches irrigate the crops.

Land Use

The primary purpose of the airport is aviation, mostly private planes and crop dusters. Crops are grown throughout the year under leases with local landowners. Reservoirs and ditches irrigate crops. Birders visit primarily in winter to search for Smith?s Longspurs. There is an active landfill on the property.