Agricultural intensification in grasslands has led to the decline of meadow bird populations in The Netherlands in the last 60 years. Habitat for meadow bird chicks has declined in quality and quantity, thereby reducing food availability. Agri-environment schemes (AES) to halt the decline in meadow bird numbers have thus far been insufficient. These AES are on the level of entire fields, but recent research suggests that margins of fields may be more suitable chick habitat than centres of fields. Therefore, it could be productive to specifically target grass field margins as part of meadow bird AES. Our study examined the differences in food availability for meadow bird families in different portions of a grass field. Invertebrates were sampled in different locations on the field and results were compared to known dietary preferences of four species of meadow bird chicks. We show strong differences in food availability within fields, depending on meadow bird species. The preferred prey species of chicks of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Redshank Tringa totanus predominantly occurred in field margins, whereas those of Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus chicks were found mostly in the main part of the field. The prey species of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks showed no clear pattern within fields. We conclude that food availability within a field differs spatially between meadow bird species. Particularly for Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank, grass field margins constitute an important part of the field. Therefore, specific management to further enhance food availability in these margins may constitute an important addition to the existing mosaic approach.
- meadow birds food availability arthropods grassland margins chick habitat agri-environment schemes agricultural intensification godwit limosa-limosa agri-environment schemes agricultural landscapes mosaic management chicks farmland biodiversity netherlands populations britain Zoology