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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Cutting field margins increases their use by yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella on farms in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Published source details

Douglas D.J.T., Vickery J.A. & Benton T.G. (2009) Improving the value of field margins as foraging habitat for farmland birds. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 353-362


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

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields for birds Bird Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in May-August 2005-6 on five farms in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (Douglas et al. 2009), found that a larger proportion of early-summer yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella foraging flights were in field margins (32% of 233 flights from ten nests), compared to cereal crops (8%). However, in late summer, cereal fields were used more (up to 56% of 506 flights) and field margins less (down to 15%). In 2006, sections of margins around some nests were cut down to the soil. These patches comprised 2.3-2.4% of margin area, and were used for 2.9% of 172 foraging flights in early summer and 34% of 77 foraging flights in late summer. The authors suggest that yellowhammers used cut patches disproportionately as the uncut sections grew taller and so reduced the access to invertebrates.

 

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields for birds Bird Conservation

A replicated study in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in May-August 2004-6 (Douglas et al. 2009), investigated the impact of cutting sown and naturally regenerated field margins, with yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella appearing to use cut patches of margins for 3% (of 172) in early summer, compared to 34% (of 77) foraging flights in late summer. This study is discussed in ‘Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields’.

 

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in 2005-2006 on mixed lowland farms in Scotland (Douglas et al. 2009), found that a larger proportion of early-summer yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella foraging flights were in field margins (32% of 233 flights from 10 nests), compared to cereal crops (8%). However, in late summer, cereal fields were used more (up to 56% of 506 flights) and field margins less (down to 15%). Field margins supported higher total invertebrate abundance than spring or winter barley across the summer period (average total invertebrate abundance was 45 in margins compared to 28 and 23 in spring and winter barley respectively). In 2006, sections of margins around some nests were cut down to the soil. These patches measured 15 x 1 m and comprised 2% of margin area. They were used for 3% of 172 foraging flights in early summer and 34% of 77 foraging flights in late summer. Cut patches were used more frequently in margins with swards >60 cm tall. The authors suggest that yellowhammers used cut patches disproportionately as the uncut sections grew taller and so reduced access to invertebrates. The study was carried out on five farms. Yellowhammer foraging flights were recorded from May-August 2005. Thirty yellowhammer nests with nestlings were observed, each for a three hour period between 07.00 h and 11.00 h. Foraging locations of adult birds from the nest site were recorded on sketch maps, and following the observation period each foraging site was visited and the distance from the nest measured.

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields Farmland Conservation

A replicated study in May-August 2004-2006 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK (Douglas et al. 2009) found that yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella appeared to use cut field margins (sown or naturally regenerated) significantly more in late than early summer for foraging. Cut patches were used more frequently in margins with swards >60 cm tall. The authors suggest that yellowhammers used cut patches disproportionately as the uncut sections grew taller and so reduced access to invertebrates.