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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Apr 7;272(1564):733-9.

Winter availability of cereal stubbles attracts declining farmland birds and positively influences breeding population trends.

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British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK.


Many studies have demonstrated the selection of stubble fields by farmland birds in winter, but none have shown whether provisioning of this key habitat positively influences national population trends for widespread farmland birds. We use two complementary extensive bird surveys undertaken at the same localities in summer and winter and show that the area of stubble in winter attracts increased numbers of several bird species of conservation concern. Moreover, for several farmland specialists, the availability of stubble fields in winter positively influenced the 10 year breeding population trend (1994-2003) whereas hedgerow bird species were less affected. For skylarks and yellowhammers, initially negative trends showed recovery with 10-20 ha of stubble per 1 km square. Thus, agri-environment schemes that promote retention of over-winter stubbles will attract birds locally and are capable of reversing current population declines if stubbles are available in sufficient quantity.

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