Agricultural change is often cited as a causal factor in the decline of the UK's farmland birds because bird declines have mirrored changes in agricultural practices. Although much is known about the mechanisms driving population declines on arable systems, mechanisms in grassland systems are relatively poorly studied, despite receiving a similar degree of intensification. Agricultural intensification may affect bird declines by reducing food abundance or accessibility, forager mobility or predation risk. Here we examine experimentally the effects of sward height on the foraging behaviour of adult Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, and the effects of sward height and drainage on the behaviour of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks. Both species are declining across the UK and both forage in farmed grassland habitats, but they differ in their foraging methods because Starlings probe for soil invertebrates whereas Lapwing chicks glean prey from surfaces. Overall, after controlling for prey abundance, short swards were found to be more productive for both species. Prey capture rate within foraging bouts did not differ with sward height for Starlings, but Starlings spent more time foraging on short swards and captured 33.2% more prey. Starlings walked more steps on short swards. Lapwing chick foraging rates declined as sward height increased. Soil moisture was not found to be a predictor of Lapwing chick foraging rates within the observed range. Our results suggest that short swards are a more profitable foraging habitat for soil and surface invertebrate feeders. Short swards may facilitate surface prey detection, improve forager mobility and increase foraging time by altering vigilance patterns. Provision of short swards in areas where these are lacking could be simple method of improving foraging habitats for grassland birds.