Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Maintain traditional orchards

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

Study locations

Key messages

Two site comparison studies from the UK and Switzerland found that traditional orchards did not benefit many birds. In Switzerland, one species was associated with orchards; in the UK, the focal species was negatively related to the presence of orchards.


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 2001 paired site comparison study in south Devon (Peach et al. 2001) found that the presence of traditional orchards was associated with reduced cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus numbers. This effect, however, may have been at least partly because orchards typically had few areas of spring-sown barley and scrub clearance – both practices identified as benefiting cirl bunting. Traditional orchard management was encouraged as a prescription within the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS). Forty-one 2x2 km² squares containing both land within the CSS and non-CSS land were surveyed in 1992, 1998 and 1999. In each year each tetrad was surveyed for cirl bunting at least twice, the first time during mid-April to late May, and the second time between early June and the end of August.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated site comparison (Herzog et al. 2005) found that on average only 12% of traditional orchards in Ecological Compensation Areas on the Swiss plateau were of ‘good ecological quality’ (based on national guidelines for Ecological Compensation Area target vegetation).   Orchard Ecological Compensation Areas appeared to offer little benefit to orchard birds, with territories of only one species (green woodpecker Picus viridis) found more frequently in or near Ecological Compensation Area orchards (11 territories) than expected.  Plant species and orchard characteristics were recorded for 187 Ecological Compensation Area orchards (total area 108 ha) between 1998 and 2001.  Territories of breeding birds were mapped in 23 study areas, based on 3 visits between mid-April and mid-June. This study is also discussed in ‘Manage hedges to benefit wildlife (includes no spray, gap-filling and laying)’ and ‘Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland’.

    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

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

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.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust