15 December 2000
Farmers throw wild birds a lifeline

By FWi staff

FARMLAND birds on the verge of local extinction are being thrown a lifeline by farmers under a new feeding initiative.

From this winter, 75 producers will leave unharvested crops, plant special crops on set-aside land, and put out waste seed for threatened species.

Sixty farmers will feed birds for three years under the scheme, known as BirdAid, and population figures compared with another 60 farms not taking part.

Another 15 farmers have been signed up for the initiative in areas such as East Anglia, where local populations are particularly threatened.

Participating farmers will receive between 50 and 500 to cover seed costs, and as compensation for not submitting arable area payment claims.

Essex farmer Guy Smith said: “I take just as much pleasure from seeing a flock of corn buntings foraging on my fields as I do from growing a good crop.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has organised the initiative in a bid to halt the decline of the tree sparrow, corn bunting and yellowhammer.

The society believes loss of winter stubble with the switch from spring to winter sowing has deprived farmland birds of a vital food source.

Mark Avery of the RSPB said he hoped the project would provide a lifeline for the birds and show that farmers and conservationists could work together.