The conservation of the Grey Partridge
The grey partridge (Perdix perdix) is an iconic farmland bird that has declined on UK farmland by over 80% in the last 50 years. This decline was caused by poor levels of chick survival driven by agricultural intensification and primarily the use of insecticides and herbicides. These products reduce numbers of insects eaten by young chicks and the host plants that support these chick-food insects. Annual monitoring of such insects in cereal fields on a study area in Sussex, England over 40 years identified these insect declines and how closely they mirrored pesticide use.
Mitigation measures were developed whereby the edges of cereal crops received only selective or seasonably restricted inputs of pesticides to facilitate insect recovery. These 'conservation headlands' were demonstrated to significantly improve chick survival and have now been made available (i.e. funded) in the UK's agri-environment schemes, whereby farmers are subsidised to help declining wildlife species recover.