Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/2158
Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences eTheses
Title: Insects on farmland and their importance to granivorous birds
Authors: Bright, Jennifer Anne
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Many species of farmland birds have shown huge declines in numbers and range since the 1970s due to agricultural intensification, and these declines have been worst amongst granivorous species. Recent studies have suggested that low abundance of invertebrate chick food may have been important in driving the declines of a number of granivorous species, however causation has still only been proved for the Grey Partridge, whose decline has been attributed to low chick survival due to the indirect effects of herbicides reducing invertebrate abundance. We investigated invertebrate declines and how they may have affected farmland bird populations in a number of ways. There is little long-term data on abundance of farmland invertebrates. Thus we first looked at how representative data from a long-running suction trap was of invertebrate abundance on local farmland. Suction trap catches reflected abundance of aerial invertebrates on local farmland, and also to abundance of epigeal invertebrates in many cases, particularly abundances in predominant crop types. Secondly, we looked at spatial and temporal distribution of invertebrates on farmland in order to make recommendations about how to increase invertebrate availability to farmland bird populations. Field margins were by far the most invertebrate rich habitats sampled. Most differences in invertebrate abundance between different crop types were found early in the season, at this time spring barley and spring oilseed rape had very low abundances. Winter wheat had relatively high invertebrate abundance compared to spring barley at this time. Winter oilseed rape and set-aside had relatively high abundances of the crop types sampled. We investigated how low invertebrate abundance may have affected populations of granivorous passerines by looking for evidence of reproductive trade-offs in a population of Tree Sparrows, and by supplementary feeding experiments with Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer chicks. There was no evidence for reproductive trade-offs within years, conversely an effect of individual quality was found. There was some evidence of reproductive trade-offs between years. Supplementary feeding increased the mass of Tree Sparrow first broods early in May but not later in May, and also of chicks with yearling parents, who had a lower provisioning rate. Chicks fledged early in May had a lower survival rate to the following year than chicks fledged later, supplementary feeding and parental age had no effect on chick survival. Supplementary feeding a parent's first brood had no effect on their later reproductive output that season, or on their survival to the next breeding season. Supplementary feeding Yellowhammer chicks early season increased their mass, but had no effect later in the season. This complies with results from a previous study of Yellowhammers in southern England, which showed that a higher proportion of chicks fledge late in the season. Further analysis of this data showed that this was because chicks were more likely to starve early in the season, and also that chick mass was lower early season, even when just looking at chicks which went on to fledge. Thus, it would appear that low invertebrate abundance was affecting the granivorous passerines looked at most in the early season, and through chick mass and survival. Measures to increase invertebrate abundance at this time would be beneficial to populations of granivorous passerines.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/2158
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences
Biological and Environmental Sciences

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