Birds bounce back when farms devote 10% of their land to nature-friendly measures - RSPB

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, adult standing on grassland, Isle of Tiree, Scotland, June. Credit John Bowler (
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, adult standing on grassland, Isle of Tiree, Scotland, June. Credit John Bowler (

A more strategic approach to wildlife-friendly farming schemes is required to recover England’s farmland bird populations, according to a new study led by the RSPB.

A new paper published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, with support from the BTO and funding from Natural England, monitored how farmland bird populations responded to different levels of agri-environment schemes in arable, pastoral and mixed farming landscapes.

The UK government has recently introduced a legally binding target to halt species abundance declines in England by 2030, with similar timebound EU targets currently under discussion. With many of our previously common farmland birds such as Starlings and Skylarks in steep decline, there is a pressing need to rapidly implement effective conservation interventions across the farmed landscape, including through the new Environmental Land Management Schemes currently being developed and piloted in England.

This ten-year study measured changes in the abundance of farmland birds on land managed under bird-focused lower- and higher-tier agri-environment schemes, as well as land no bird-friendly farming initiatives.

Under the higher-tier scheme, an average of 11% of the farm was devoted to bird-friendly measures, whereas <4% was managed under the lower-tier schemes. The authors specifically studied bird-friendly measures that provide seed-rich habitat for winter foraging, insect-rich habitat for feeding chicks, and nesting habitat for ground nesting species such as Lapwing. Higher-tier farms also received bespoke one-to-one management advice prior to the start of their agreements.

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Posted On: 05/01/2023

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