The Allerton Project: farmland management for partridges (Perdix perdix, Alectoris rufa) and pheasants (Phasianus colchicus).
A 333-ha arable grassland estate in the English Midlands was managed according to established principles of habitat management and predation control to enhance populations of wild game within the context of a modern, profitable farming operation. Habitat management provided nesting cover in the form of improved woodland (for pheasant Phasianus colchicus), field boundaries and grassy midfield banks (for pheasant, grey partridge Perdix perdix and red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa); brood-rearing cover as 'Conservation Headlands' (cereal field margins with reduced pesticide use) and 'Wild Bird Cover' (cereal-based crop mixtures on set-aside); and winter cover as woodland and 'Wild Bird Cover' (kale-based crop mixtures on set-aside). Predators were controlled during the nesting season. Counts were conducted in spring and autumn to estimate population trends, and to determine breeding performance. In 1995 a radio-tracking study of hen pheasants was also conducted. Breeding success of all three gamebird species increased since management began in 1993, and populations have risen. Thirty percent (n = 50) of radio-tagged pheasants left the estate between March and July. Hen pheasant home ranges contained more (P < 0.05) arable crops than expected if habitat choice were random prior to nesting. Choice of nesting habitat was in proportion to availability. Fifty-six percent of radio locations for hens with broods were in cereal fields; there was proportionally less (P < 0.05) use of field edges in home ranges than in the study area.