The aim of this study will be to investigate and quantify the potential for providing food for farmland seed-eating birds in the form of plots or blocks of crops/plants or crop mixtures.
The study will be composed of 7 specific objectives outlined as follows, together with ways in which they might be achieved: 1. Determination of the attractiveness of various seed producing crop/plant species to birds (including grey partridge, corn bunting, reed bunting, yellowhammer, linnet and tree sparrow) by observing 9 annual (wheats, oats, triticale, linseed, forage rape, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and sunflower) and 4 biennial (kale, chicory, teasel and evening primrose) crops at 3 contrasting locations within the UK; 2. Investigation of rates of seed loss from annual and biennial crops through (i) shedding as measured by use of sticky traps placed beneath the canopy of each plot, (ii) consumption on the plant, and (iii) consumption on the ground as well as the extent to which birds utilise seed on the plant and on the ground by relation of seed availability to observed feeding activity; 3. Determination of the effect of seed crop location with respect to cover on bird feeding activity through the winter and on seed depletion using large paired plots on at least 20 farms with one of the paired plots located adjacent to a hedgerow; 4. Investigation of the relationships between numbers of birds feeding and seed depletion in order to estimate food consumed per bird per day and to calculate the plot size needed to feed birds throughout the year; 5. Quantification of the use of (i) cover crops grown for game, (ii) mixtures grown under the “Wild Bird Cover” set-aside option and (iii) “Wildlife Seed Mixtures” grown under the Arable Stewardship Scheme agreements, as food sources by birds in terms of diversity and number of birds, and period of use, employing a survey of over 200 farms; 6. Production of guidelines that cover selection, establishment and siting of seed crops in order to provide resources for target bird species throughout the winter period; and 7. Publication of results in refereed scientific journals. Results will be incorporated into guidelines for sowing and management of crops to provide winter seed food for birds in order to assist in the conservation of declining farmland seed-eating bird species.