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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Uncropped, cultivated plots appear to increase stone curlew Burhinus oedicnemus populations, but undrilled plots for skylarks Alauda arvensis have very limited uptake in the UK

Published source details

Evans A.D. & Green R.E. (2007) An example of a two-tiered agri-environment scheme designed to deliver effectively the ecological requirements of both localised and widespread bird species in England. Journal of Ornithology, 148, 279-286


Skylarks Alauda arvensis and stone curlews (Eurasian thick-knees) Burhinus oedicnemus have declined across the UK over recent decades due to changes in agricultural practices. Particularly damaging is the autumn sowing of cereals, which means that crops have grown too tall for ground-nesting birds by the time skylarks and stone curlews begin to nest in spring.

This study investigates the uptake and success of skylark plots and uncropped, cultivated plots (stone curlew plots) in the UK.



Stone curlew plots

Between 2000 and 2005, 156 stone curlew plots were created in southern England. Plots were 1-2 ha in size and in arable or set aside fields. They were located away from the edges of fields and close (<1 km) from pastures, pig farms or other food sources.

The population of stone curlews in the area and across the UK was monitored from 2000 to 2005.

Skylark plots

Skylark plots consist of undrilled patches in arable fields, where farms briefly stop sowing crops to create uncultivated patches. The uptake of the plots across the UK was monitored in 2005-6.


Stone curlew plots

The stone curlew population in southern England increased from 71 breeding pairs in 2000 to 103 in 2005. A further 51 plots were created in 2006 and the UK population increased from 160 pairs in the 1980s to 300 pairs in 2005.

Skylark plots

Skylark plots have been shown to be successful in increasing skylark breeding success, but this study found that only 2.1% of 20,533 agri-environment scheme agreements included skylark plots – enough to provide habitat for 0.6% of the UK skylark population.

The authors suggest that tariffs and compensation schemes need to be reviewed to promote in-field interventions, as well as field-margin interventions.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper.