DELAYING PLOUGHING could help reverse the decline of some farmland bird species, a new study has found.

The paper published on Wednesday (April 6) in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society‘ found that over-winter stubbles benefited many seed eating species, particularly Yellowhammers and Skylarks.

Both species are of high conservation concern – the red list – said the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which was involved with the study.

“If the area of retained stubble within lowland farmland Britain can be increased from 3% to 10%, this should be sufficient to stop breeding season declines,” said the BTO‘s Simon Gillings.

“Aiming for 20% has the potential to increase numbers but the area required could be greatly reduced by managing stubble fields in a more bird-friendly way.”

Environmental stewardship schemes will help provide such habitats and the government is committed to protecting the UK‘s wildlife, added DEFRA‘s conservation minister, Ben Bradshaw.

“That is why in 2000 DEFRA established a Public Service Agreement target to reverse the long term decline in farmland bird numbers by 2020.

“The results of the BTO research, funded in partnership with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the Government‘s wildlife adviser, reflect that we are making positive progress to meeting that target,” he said.

Further details of these targets can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/farm/conservation/birds.htm.