Thursday, March 27, 2008

More spuds mean more Yellow Wags

Yellow Wagtails have declined in the UK by 65% since 1970 and, according to Dr James Gilroy at the University of East Anglia, much of this decline is due to their inability to raise sufficient youngsters each year. In Yellow Wagtails the capacity to have successful second broods appears to be paramount to their survival.

On returning from Africa the birds establish territories in autumn-sown cereals and, while tending broods as the winter-wheat grows from 20-70cm, they will tolerate the rapidly changing crop. For second broods however they will look to re-nest in crops of a looser canopy.

From a study undertaken in Lincolnshire Dr Gilroy found the overall breeding success was low, with 59% of attempts failing completely. When details were taken of the crops growing in the fields in which birds were attempting to breed a pattern began to emerge. Second broods raised in potato fields did better than any other crop; increasing in importance as the breeding season progressed. Beans, peas and sugar-beet were also used for attempts but were much inferior. Set-aside and oil seed rape held no territories.

So, given our regional limits on Yellow Wagtail distribution, maybe we should be pressing for farmers to be growing more potatoes in order to secure our limited population of Yellow Wagtails.

Adapted from a BTO News Release. Image from www.shropshirebirds.com

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