The survival of gamebird (Galliformes) chicks in relation to pesticide use on cereals



Field experiments were carried out to test the effects of cereal pesticides (herbicides, fungicides and insecticides) on chick survival of Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa and Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. On fields in experimental plots the outer 6 m of cereal (the headland) were not sprayed with pesticides from 1 January 1984, whereas control plots were fully sprayed. Gamebird brood counts were carried out after the cereal harvest. In addition, nine Grey Partridge broods were radio-tracked for 21 days after hatching (four in sprayed plots and five in unsprayed plots) to determine their movements, home range size and survival in relation to pesticide spraying.

The mean brood size of Grey Partridge and Pheasant was significantly higher on plots where field edges were unsprayed than on fully sprayed control plots. Data for Red-legged Partridge were inconclusive. The survival of individually marked Grey Partridge broods was negatively related to the distance moved between successive nocturnal roost sites. Survival was significantly higher, the distance moved between roost sites significantly shorter and the proportion of home range including headland significantly greater for broods feeding in spring barley fields with unsprayed field edges compared with broods feeding in fully sprayed fields.