A scientific survey of environmental schemes on farmland indicates that government-funded measures to help birds in winter are working.
The paper, published in the avian science journal IBIS, reports on work looking at the number of wintering birds feeding on fields planted with plots of wild bird seed mix.
In East Anglia, the study found a significantly greater number and range of seed-eating birds like tree sparrows, corn buntings and yellowhammers in plots planted as part of Environmental Stewardship schemes.
The research recorded densities of around 30 birds per hectare in plots which were in ELS and HLS, compared with two birds per hectare in traditional game cover consisting of maize. The stewardship cover, also a key Campaign for the Farmed Environment option, featured a wider range of different, seed-rich crops such as kale, linseed, millet, barley and fodder radish.
RSPB Conservation Director Mark Avery said: “This research clearly shows the value of Environmental Stewardship in providing a much greater variety of the seeds that small farmland birds need.
“The RSPB, Natural England and the industry’s Campaign for the Farmed Environment, are urging more farmers to include wild bird cover and other measures on their land to help wintering birds.
“This research goes some way to proving that those farmers across the UK who are taking up these environmental stewardship options are making a real difference."
Natural England offers leaflets to aid farmers in making the most of their ELS agreements by choosing the measures best suited to their farms. Click here for details.
Find out more about the Campaign for the Farmed Environment here.
Get more environment news from the NFU here.