In this study territory densities of field-breeding farmland birds were compared on pairwise-selected organic and conventional arable farms for two years. Differences in territory densities between the two farm types were explained examining the effects of three factors on territory densities: (1) non-crop habitats, (2) crop types and (3) within-crop factors. In both years, densities of most species did not differ between organic and conventional farms. Only skylark and lapwing were more abundant on organic farms, but only skylarks showed a consistent pattern over both years. Differences in crop types grown between the two systems were the only explaining factor for differences in densities of skylark. For lapwing, the difference was only partly due to differences in crop type, but differences in within-crop factors (probably as a result of crop management) were likely to have had an effect as well. There were no significant differences in abundance of non-crop habitats between the two farming systems, so this could not explain differences in territory densities. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.