Action: Provide short grass for birds
- A replicated UK study found that common starlings and northern lapwing spent more time foraging on short grass, compared to longer grass, and that starlings captured more prey in short grass.
Vegetation height is important in determining the value of a grassland to wildlife, with short vegetation allowing birds access to the ground for foraging and potentially reducing predation risk. However, high vegetation can provide more complex environments and more habitats.
See also ‘Raise mowing height on grasslands’.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated study from January to May 2002 of 15 northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks on one grassland site in the Isle of Islay, UK and 20 common starlings Sturnus vulgaris on one grassland site each in Oxfordshire, UK (Devereux et al. 2004) found that both species experienced significantly greater foraging success in shorter grass. For lapwing chicks, foraging rate declined as grass height increased. Starlings spent 30% more time actively foraging and captured 33% more prey in short grass, although intake rate (captures per second of active foraging) did not differ between long and short grass. Invertebrate abundance did not differ between long and short grass. Fertilizer application and water level was manipulated to provide a range of grass heights on the lapwing site. Starlings were observed in enclosures placed within intensively managed permanent pasture that was mown to either 3 cm (short grass) or 13 cm (tall grass).