Farmland Birds

Durham Priority Species
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Farmland Birds & Mammals Action Plan

Priority Species: Skylark, Corn Bunting,Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Reed Bunting,Yellow Wagtail, Snipe, Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Peregrine, Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler, Grey Partridge, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, Swallow, Yellowhammer, Brown Hare

Priorities
1. Improve our knowledge of the distribution and status of farmland birds and mammals through research, survey and monitoring
2. Maintain existing populations and range of farmland birds in the DBAP area
3. Increase the area of habitat created as resting and feeding areas for ground nesting birds and brown hare.
4. Increase the number and quality of nesting sites for farmland birds
5. Increase the amount of wet lowland areas through reversal of drainage and pond creation.
6. Help effectively target agri-environment funding to increase populations of farmland birds, and to reconnect isolated populations.

Skylark Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of breeding skylark in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares 235

Corn Bunting Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To increase the population of the corn bunting in the Durham BAP area. expand occupied tetrads 50 singing males

Tree Sparrow Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To increase the range of tree sparrow in the Durham BAP area. expand occupied tetrads 50

Linnet Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of linnet in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied BBS squares 17 squares 54.8%

Reed Bunting Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of reed bunting in the Durham BAP area. maintain BBS squares 4 squares 12.9%

Yellow Wagtail Targets
Vision Statement: To halt the decline of yellow wagtail and then to expand the current limited breeding range.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of breeding yellow wagtail in the Durham BAP area. range occupied tetrads 44

Snipe Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the number of breeding territories of snipe in the Durham BAP area. maintain breeding pairs tbc

Brown Hare Targets
Vision Statement: To maintain the distribution and increase the population of brown hare through the Durham area.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the current range of brown hare in the Durham Area. maintain occupied km squares 180

Redshank Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of breeding redshank in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares  tbc
2. To maintain the number of wintering redshank in the Durham BAP area. maintain winter peak counts 780

Lapwing Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the number of breeding territories of lapwing in the Durham BAP area. maintain breeding territories tbc
2. To maintain the number of wintering lapwing in the Durham BAP area. maintain winter peak counts 1254

Curlew Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of breeding curlew in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares tbc
2. To maintain the number of wintering curlew in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares 245

Peregrine Targets

Target Type Unit Value
1. To increase the number of breeding pairs of peregrine in the Durham BAP area expand breeding pairs 10

Targets for Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler, Grey Partridge, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, Swallow, Yellowhammer are still to be developed

Farmland birds have been declining nationally since the early 60’s and this has been associated mainly with the rapid intensification of agricultural over this period, and the consequent loss of nesting habitat and food for birds and other animals.

Farmland birds have seen average population declines of 40% since 1970. The government has set a target to halt and then reverse the decline by 2020.

Brown hare is a UK BAP species, which has been in long term decline.

Local status

Skylark An abundant resident and passage migrant in Durham, showing some local declines in recent years. Numbers are down by about 38% since 1994, in the region as a whole.

Corn bunting have decreased by at least 95% in the North East region since the 1970’s. In Durham the population has become more coastal and is much reduced and fragmented. Uncommon, very local, and declining, but with a stronghold in Bishop Middleham.

Tree sparrow have decreased by at least 50% in the North East region since the 1970’s. Locally common but sparsely distributed in Durham. The provision of nest boxes has seen local increases in recent years. The vast majority of records are in the eastern lowland half of the County.

Linnet A very common and well distributed resident and passage migrant.

Reed bunting declined nationally by over 60% since the 1970s but remains widespread in lowland areas, breeding in low densities across most suitable habitat. Typically found near water be it rivers, ponds or ditches, it can also be found in drier localities, but always requires rank, tussocky vegetation.

The breeding population in the County is estimated at between 500 and 800 pairs. Birds gather in winter and concentrations of up to 50 birds (though 15-25 more typically) can be found at key winter feeding localities such as Bournmoor, Rainton Meadows and Chourdon Point.

Yellow wagtail A common summer visitor and passage migrant, but showing signs of decline. Breeding centred around mid-Durham and the Saltholme Pools area of the Tees Marshes.

Redshank A very common passage, winter visitor and breeder. The coastal stretch between Sunderland and South Shields is particularly important, but some inland wetlands also attract good numbers.

Snipe A common passage and winter visitor, and locally common breeding species. Concentrations in the south of the County, with large numbers not so widespread in the north.

Curlew A very common passage, winter visitor and breeder, but numbers have declined by about 16% in the North East since 1994. The Greatham Creek and Saltholme Pools area remains the best gathering point in the County, with widespread breeding sites in the uplands and more restricted breeding in the lowlands.

Lapwing An abundant passage and winter visitor and a very common breeder.

Brown hare Recent local surveys show that brown hare is still widespread in the Durham BAP area, although there is little information on population trends.

Threats
The main threats to farmland birds and mammals are:

Shortage of winter food: seed-rich stubbles have been replaced by winter planting, and mixed farming by monocultures. This is a particular problem for corn bunting, linnet, tree sparrow and brown hare.

Shortage of spring food for chicks: Pesticides have removed insect life from many farms, silage production has replaced flower-rich meadows, and drainage has reduced wet areas for insect breeding.

Loss of nesting habitat: Silage cutting makes grassland unsuitable for ground-nesting birds and disturbs brown hare during the breeding season. Winter cereals are too tall and dense to allow access by ground nesting birds after May, and field boundaries are less available and less suitable.  This affects skylark, curlew, redshank, snipe, lapwing and brown hare.

Nest destruction: Increased stocking rates and increased spraying, rolling and harrowing can all destroy nests and reduce chick survival for the ground nesting birds.

Removal of scrub and loss of rank vegetation reduces suitable breeding areas for some species like reed bunting.

Drainage is a particular problem, reducing the availability of invertebrate food, and thereby the availability of suitable nesting sites. Curlew, snipe, redshank, lapwing and yellow wagtail are particularly affected.

Hedgerow Loss, in particular the loss of mature hedgerow trees, has reduced natural nesting sites for species such as tree sparrow.

Habitat isolation has a big effect on corn bunting, which is a fairly sedentary bird, and is increasingly isolated by surrounding unfavourable habitat.

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