• South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative (SDFBI)

    The SDFBI is a collaborative partnership between Farmers, Conservation Organisations and Government Agencies. It provides a focal point for information and advice on how to integrate conservation management for farmland birds into modern farming businesses.

Priority farmland birds

A wide range of birds can be found on farmland across the South Downs. They can be split into two groups – generalists and specialists.

  • Generalists are those species that use farmland for breeding and/or feeding but are not solely dependent upon it. They include woodpigeon, greenfinch and goldfinch.
  • Specialists are those birds that are solely reliant upon farmland for their breeding and feeding requirements. They include grey partridge, lapwing, yellowhammer and skylark.

The specialists have fared worse over the last 40 years, and it is these birds that will benefit most from targeted conservation measures on farms.  See Farmland birds advisory links for information on managing habitats for priority species.

Creating the right habitats

Creating specific habitats on farmland can help a range of wildlife, and is the most common way farmers and land managers deliver conservation on farms. Research suggests that farmland birds require 3-10% of farmland to be managed in this way to support their populations.

To thrive, farmland birds require suitable habitats all year round. This is often called the ‘Big 3’ – safe nesting habitat, summer insect feeding areas and winter seed feeding areas. The approach can apply at an individual holding level, but is now being considered much more across farm clusters covering a landscape area.  See Managing habitats for farmland birds for more information.

SDFBI bird monitoring scheme

Since 2014 a survey has been running across the South Downs National Park to track numbers of priority farmland birds such as skylarks, yellowhammers and linnets.  The information gathered is used to help inform on-farm conservation measures, ensuring that targeted conservation action is taken in the most appropriate areas.

Coordinated by the South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative (SDFBI), the survey is undertaken by volunteers who are each allocated a randomly selected 1km grid square.  The volunteers use public rights of way to undertake two morning surveys, one in April and the other in June.  They aim to walk two transects across their grid square noting the type and numbers of birds they see along their route.  Once the surveys are completed, the results are collated and mapped to show where the priority species were found

Further Information

For further advice and information on managing farmland for birds, visit our website at: www.sdfarmbirds.com