Farmland bird decline reverses

23 July 2001

Farmland bird decline reverses

By Tom Allen-Stevens

MANY farmland birds that have been in decline for the past 25 years have seen a recent rise in populations, according to the British Trust for Ornithology.

But seed-eaters, like the skylark, tree sparrow and corn bunting, are still in decline and still a cause for concern.

The 2000 Common Bird Census, in its last year of a 40-year run, recorded 14 out of 15 significant changes since 1999 as being rises in population.

Important climbers on the list were the dunnock, blackbird, song thrush and tawny owl, which has risen 33% in the year.

“The ones that have benefited are basically the hedgerow birds,” BTOs Chris Mead told FWi on Monday (23 July).

“It shows that conservation headlands, not cutting your hedgerows and schemes such as Countryside and Arable Stewardship are beginning to work.”

But conditions are still not right for seed-eaters, which nest and feed in open arable fields, said Mr Mead.

“The use of modern herbicides cuts down the amount of weeds in the crop – the birds food source – while modern varieties grow too dense for nesting.”

He suggests growers should try leaving small gaps – less than 1m length – in their drilling as safe havens for the birds.

“The actual cost to a farmer would be nil, but it would be of great benefit to birds that are struggling to breed.”

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