As we enter the hardest time of the year for our farmland birds with low temperatures and a lack of natural food, winter feeding of gamebirds and songbirds is being undertaken by thousands of farmers and gamekeepers to sustain the birds through the ‘hungry gap’. The GWCT has just published a new detailed report, ‘Guidelines for sustainable gamebird and songbird feeding’ following extensive research into this widespread management practice.
In the study 259 feeders on three farms were monitored taking over 160,000 photographs. Analysis of use of the feeders and the behaviour of individual species has enabled the Trust to produce guidelines on how to maximise the benefit for target species and reduce the amount of grain taken by non-target species like rats.
Dr Carlos Sánchez of the GWCT who co-authored the guide with Dr Francis Buner comments, “Winter feeding is a vital management tool, with virtually all shoots feeding during the shooting season and the majority also feeding during the ´hungry gap’. Many farms also provide food for songbirds in late winter, benefiting a wide range of birds including yellowhammers and corn buntings, sometimes funded through agri-environment agreements. Rats can take a large amount of grain when measures are not taken to control them properly”.
The guidelines show how altering the feeder location can reduce this problem. The guidelines also include information on how and where to feed, how many feeders should be used as well as tips and tricks from hygiene to using camera traps to evaluate and monitor the effects of feeding. There is also detailed information on how to build a feeder.
The printing of the guidelines has been kindly sponsored by Bright Seeds. It can be downloaded at www.gwct.org.uk/feedingguidelines