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Creating ephemeral resources: how long do the beneficial effects of grass cutting last for birds?

Lookup NU author(s): Claudia Garratt, Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD


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Capsule Beneficial effects of cutting grass are relatively short-lived for a range of bird species. Aims To investigate how cutting affects a range of birds occurring on farmland, how long these effects last, and whether there is any effect of the timing of cutting operations. Methods We surveyed birds on 33 grass fields on three farms in northern England, both before and after agricultural cutting operations. The data were then modelled using generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs). Results Species relying on below-ground invertebrates (e. g. corvid species) prefer cut swards, while some species make greater use of longer grass swards (e. g. pheasant). Use of fields after cutting declined by 50 % by day 11 for corvids, by day 8 for aerial feeders (e.g. hirundines), by day 6 for gulls, and by day 4 for kestrels. Conclusions We recorded mainly common, generalist species that make use of agricultural grassland. The foraging behaviour of these species is similar to other, rarer or declining species, and so our findings can be extrapolated to a range of farmland birds. However, it is important to note that some studies indicate direct negative effects of cutting on some species not found in our surveys.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Peggie CT, Garratt CM, Whittingham MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Bird Study

Year: 2011

Volume: 58

Issue: 4

Pages: 390-398

Print publication date: 14/11/2011

ISSN (print): 0006-3657

ISSN (electronic): 1944-6705

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2011.597841


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