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Keywords:

  • Field margin;
  • chick-food invertebrates;
  • nesting cover;
  • biodiversity;
  • agroecosystems;
  • arable

Summary

Severe declines have occurred in the populations of wild game birds in Britain. This has been attributed to agricultural intensification, leading to the loss of invertebrates vital within chick diets, fewer feeding resources for adults, and inadequate provision of nesting and brood-rearing habitat. This paper explores the potential value of simple sown grass strips – beetle banks – in providing these resources, and compares results with functionally similar conventional field margins. The data indicate that beetle banks can contribute useful, albeit lower, densities of chick-food than conventional margins. These resources are more abundant later in the season, which may have implications for early hatched chicks. Beetle banks provide considerable quantities of nesting cover for adults, although sheltering conditions may never be as satisfactory as in well managed hedgerows. Given the ease and low cost of establishment of beetle banks, we suggest that they may be valuable components within a range of game management techniques on the farm, as a ‘spin-off’ to their primary role as overwintering habitat for polyphagous predators. They may be important particularly where resources for game birds are impoverished, but clearly cannot substitute for suitably managed field margins.