Effects of habitat on the use of supplementary food by farmland birds in winter


*Corresponding author. Email: gavin.siriwardena@bto.org


Providing supplementary food for seed-eating birds in winter is likely to be a key strategy, in some form, in future efforts to conserve farmland biodiversity. We present interim analyses of data on the bird use of artificial feeding sites under the RSPB-led BirdAid project and the BTO-led Winter Food for Birds (WFFB) project, investigating the influence of the habitat context at the local and landscape scales on the use of supplementary food by Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra, Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, House Sparrow Passer domesticus, Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, Greenfinch Carduelis chloris, Goldfinch C. carduelis and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. Our results reveal species-specificity, rather than general patterns, in relationships between habitat variables and counts. The responses of the only species for which both BirdAid and WFFB provided data, the Yellowhammer, differed between the projects, suggesting that the results were not geographically general. The results fail to indicate justifiable firm habitat prescriptions for site locations that would suit a number of species. Clearer patterns were apparent in results with respect to areas of major habitats in the landscapes surrounding feeding sites, which suggested that local abundance could have an important effect on the use of supplementary food. Future analyses of data from these projects will attempt to separate the competing probable habitat influences on local bird abundance and alternative resource availability.