Use of field margins by foraging yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) Science Article 3


Some agri-environment schemes promote the creation and management of a variety of non-crop habitats on farmland inthe UK, yet there has been relatively little monitoring to assess how species, particularly birds, use these habitats. The presentstudy deals with a declining UK farmland bird species, yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, and considers to what extent grassmargins of arable fields are used as a foraging habitat when feeding nestlings. Studies were carried out in lowland mixedfarmland in southern England.Grass margins and other non-crop field boundary habitats, such as hedgerows and ditches, were selected relative to croppedareas by yellowhammers. No significant difference was found between use of cut and uncut grass margins. Studies haveshown that grass margins support high densities of invertebrates and their provision at the edge of arable fields would benefityellowhammers during the breeding season both as habitat for prey and as nesting habitat. During the breeding season fromMay to August, management should create cut and uncut grass margins in close proximity to each other. This could be achievedby cutting only the outer edge of the grass margin, maintaining cover next to the hedgerow. Cut areas would provide easieraccess to food resources for birds and prevent weed encroachment to the crop, whilst adjacent uncut areas would maintaininvertebrate sources and provide nesting cover for yellowhammers.

Allan J. Perkins, Mark J. Whittingham, Antony J. Morris, Richard B. Bradbury, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 93 (2002) 413-420

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