Action: Provide short grass for waders
A replicated UK study found that common starlings and northern lapwings spent more time foraging on short swards, 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 Raise mowing height on permanent grassland).
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated study from January-May in 2002 that observed 15 northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks on the Isle of Islay, UK, and 20 common starlings Sturnus vulgaris in Oxfordshire, UK (Devereux et al. 2004) found that both species experienced significantly greater foraging success in shorter grass swards. For lapwing chicks, foraging rate declined as sward height increased. In short swards, starlings spent 30% more time actively foraging and captured 33% more prey, although intake rate (captures per second of active foraging) did not differ between swards. Invertebrate abundance did not differ between long and short swards. Fertiliser application and water level was manipulated to provide a range of sward heights on the lapwing site. Starlings were observed in enclosures placed within intensively managed permanent pasture that was mown to either 3 cm (short sward) or 13 cm (tall sward).