Bird use of establishment-stage Miscanthus biomass crops during the breeding season in England.
Capsule Summer bird densities in establishment-stage (2-3-year-old) Miscanthus were the same as in winter wheat fields for many species, but were higher for Lapwing, and for Reed Bunting and Blackbird late in the summer.
Aims To compare abundances of farmland birds in establishment-stage Miscanthus biomass crops with those in crop types they are likely to replace (winter wheat and grassland) during the breeding season. In particular, to investigate whether such a rapid-growing, dense crop has lower abundances of field-nesting species.
Methods Bird surveys were conducted in 51 Miscanthus fields and an equal number of grass or winter wheat control fields between May and July, in Lincolnshire and southwest England.
Results Species richness was similar in Miscanthus to that in winter wheat and grass. Skylark densities were similar in Miscanthus and wheat, while Lapwing densities were higher in Miscanthus and grass than wheat. Miscanthus contained very high ensities of Reed Buntings and Blackbirds late in the summer.
Conclusion Densities of most bird species, including field-nesting species, were not lower in establishment-stage Miscanthus than in the crops it most commonly replaced. The Miscanthus surveyed was relatively weedy and patchy; further studies as crops age and knowledge of Miscanthus husbandry increases would be valuable.