Growing crops to provide food for seed-eating birds in winter.
Overwinter survival may be an important factor influencing declines of seed-eating farmland bird species, and evidence suggests that seed availability on farms over the winter period has been reduced. The provision of food resources by growing crops on set-aside or under an agri-environment scheme prescription may help maintain bird populations when natural seed supplies are low. Experimental studies were carried out to assess preferences of seed-eating birds for different annual and biennial crop types. Bird species differed in the crops they used. Most species used a variety of crops, but yellowhammers used mainly cereals and greenfinches were largely restricted to borage, sunflowers, and later in the season, mustard. Crops used by several bird species included kale, quinoa, fat hen, and linseed. Buckwheat was little used and few birds other than greenfinches fed on borage and sunflower. Results are discussed in relation to previous studies of bird diet and seed selection, and practical prescriptions for implementing the results are considered.