Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit birds

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • A review from the UK found that raising mowing height may have increased productivity of Eurasian skylarks, but not sufficiently to maintain the local population.
  • A randomised, replicated and controlled study from the UK found that no more foraging birds were attracted to plots with raised mowing heights, compared to plots with shorter grass.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England in 2003-6 (Defra 2007) found that 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture cut to 10 cm in May and July did not attract more foraging birds than 12 control plots cut to 5 cm. Plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grassland’, ‘Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally’, ‘Undersow spring cereals’, ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’ .


    Study and other actions tested
  2. A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 that tested the effect of mowing height on skylarks Alauda arvensis nesting in silage fields. Preliminary results showed that chick survival was not affected by raised cutting height. However, the number of new birds produced each year (productivity) was more sensitive to re-nesting rates than chick survival. Raised cutting height slightly increased productivity, because skylarks re-nested sooner after cutting, but this was not enough to maintain a local population given survival rates. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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