Farmland Bird Surveys

There has been a dramatic decline in farmland bird populations since the 1970s, with nearly all species of farmland birds declining. A basic farmland bird survey can provide the factual evidence to give advice on required conservation methods and land management techniques needed to reverse this trend at a local level.

Basic Farmland Bird Surveys would involve;

  • Looking at the present distribution of avifauna across the farm landscape
  • Determining distribution patterns of bird populations and their relationship to habitat, particularly woodlands, field margins, set-a-side and hedgerows
  • Consider how future agricultural cropping and land management could affect bird populations

A mapping census would provide a detailed description of the species present on site, while territories plotted on a map would allow comparisons with a map of management history or habitat features.

An example of a survey map from Lincolnshire.

I have worked closely with both the British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB on numerous Farm Bird surveys and have extensive knowledge of the latest Farmland Bird Surveying techniques.

An example of a BBS table showing Birds of Conservation Concern RED and ORANGE

Grass margins can provide nest sites for ground-nesting birds  

A tussocky grass strip against a short, thick hedge provides an ideal habitat for ground-nesting bird species such as grey partridges, whitethroats and yellowhammers. Corn buntings may use the same kind of strip alongside hedgeless field boundaries.

Grass margins boost numbers of beneficial insects and spiders on arable farmland  

Tussocky grass margins provide essential over-wintering habitat for many welcome insects and spiders, who then feed on crop pests in the spring. They are also used by grasshoppers, sawflies and other insects which provide chick food for birds such as partridges, tree sparrows and reed buntings.

Wild flower strips attract nectar-feeding insects, such as bumble bees, and hoverflies, which lay their eggs where there is an abundant supply of aphids for the larvae to feed on.

Grass margins provide habitat for small mammals

Small mammal populations, such as voles and harvest mice, are able to build up in wide grass margins, providing ideal hunting habitat for barn owls and kestrels. Wide margins away from roadsides can reduce the risk of barn owls being killed by road traffic.

Cultivated margins can help conserve rare arable plant species

Many rare plants are now confined to the edges of arable fields. Careful management of these margins can help them without creating a significant weed burden at the edge of the crop. Cultivated margins on light soils with low fertility can provide seeds for farmland birds. Choose sites carefully to prevent infestations of noxious weeds.