Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Common starlingsSturnus vulgaris and northern lapwingsVanellus vanellus experience significantly higher foraging success in short swards

Published source details

Devereux C.L., McKeever C.U., Benton T.G. & Whittingham M.J. (2004) The effect of sward height and drainage on Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris and Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus foraging in grassland habitats. Ibis, 146, 115-122


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Provide short grass for waders Bird Conservation

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).

 

Raise water levels in ditches or grassland Bird Conservation

A replicated study from January-March in 2002 that observed 15 northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks of one grassland site in the Isle of Islay, UK (Devereux et al. 2004), found that raising water levels in the grassland did not affect lapwing foraging rate. Foraging rate increased with decreasing sward height and was greater in ditches than on rigs (strips of cultivated land). Soil moisture, however, did not significantly affect foraging rate after sward height and rig effects were accounted for. The timing of fertiliser application (to promote grass growth) and water level in ditches was manipulated at the field scale, which resulted in a range of soil moisture levels and sward heights. Water level was controlled through sluiced canals along that ran along field boundaries and in-field ditches. The authors point out that spring 2002 was particularly wet and may have confounded any effect of added soil moisture.

 

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit farmland wildlife Farmland Conservation

A replicated study from January to May 2002 of 15 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks on one grassland site in the Isle of Islay and 20 common starlings Sturnus vulgaris on one grassland site 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 grass heights. 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).

 

Provide short grass for birds Farmland Conservation

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).

 

Raise water levels in ditches or grassland Farmland Conservation

A replicated study from January-March 2002 of 15 northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks on one grassland site in the Isle of Islay, UK (Devereux et al. 2004) found that raising water levels in the grassland did not affect lapwing foraging rate. Foraging rate increased with decreasing vegetation height and was greater in ditches than on rigs. Soil moisture, however, did not significantly affect foraging rate after sward height and rig versus ditch effects were factored out. The timing of fertilizer application (to promote grass growth) and water level in ditches was manipulated at the field scale, which resulted in a range of soil moisture levels and vegetation heights. Water level was controlled through sluiced canals that ran along field boundaries and in-field ditches. The authors point out that spring 2002 was particularly wet and may have confounded any effect of added soil moisture.