Starling advisory sheet (Wales) - RSPB

rspb.org.uk

Starling advisory sheet (Wales) - RSPB

David Tipling (rspb-images.com)

FARMING FOR BIRDS IN WALES

Starling

Starlings need suitable nest sites and a good supply of insects and seed food to breed successfully.

The number of starlings breeding in Wales

is falling at an alarming rate, with a 62%*

decline since 1994. Welsh starlings are

joined in the winter months by large

numbers of continental immigrants, which

form the large flocks that can be seen

roaming the countryside. In Wales, the

starling is a bird of pastoral and suburban

habitats. Its decline is thought to be

associated with changes in pastoral

management, including loss of permanent

pasture and loss of mixed farming. The

availability of nest sites may also be a

limiting factor.

*Data source: British Trust for Ornithology

WHAT DO STARLINGS NEED?

Areas of mixed farming with insect-rich permanent pasture, old trees and buildings,

which provide:

Nest sites

Starlings nest in holes and

cavities in trees and

buildings (including

occupied houses). They will

also use nestboxes.

Insect food

In the breeding season,

adults and young feed on

insects and their larvae,

particularly soil-dwelling

invertebrates such as tipulid

larvae (leatherjackets) and

earthworms. These are taken

from areas of permanent

pasture. They also take

spiders and caterpillars from

grassland, trees and

hedgerows.

Fruit and seed food

all year

Hedgerow fruit and seed

taken from stubble fields are

important foods throughout

the year but particularly in

the autumn and winter when

insect food is scarce.

Juveniles rely heavily on

fruit and caterpillars, gleaned

from trees.

GUIDELINES OVERLEAF


HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE STARLINGS?

MANAGE PERMANENT PASTURE

Permanent pasture is a very important feeding

habitat for starlings throughout the year.

The following management should be

undertaken, particularly in pasture fields that

are large and open.







Manage areas of permanent pasture by:

● grazing livestock. Starlings favour short

grazed areas, which allow easy access to

soil-dwelling insects

● avoiding use of pesticides to control

tipulid larvae (leatherjackets).

Avoid frequent cultivation and re-seeding,

which reduces the populations of soil

invertebrates.

Create or maintain damp areas in fields.

The increased moisture content makes soil

invertebrates more accessible.

Unimproved and semi-improved

pasture can be important. There are

options to maintain these habitats within

agri-environment schemes.

Apply farmyard manure to improved

permanent pasture to make invertebrates

more accessible.

Avoid rolling pastures in spring unless

absolutely necessary.

INTRODUCE ARABLE TO

PASTORAL AREAS

This will also benefit other declining farmland

birds, such as yellowhammers and tree

sparrows, but should not be done at the expense

of insect-rich permanent pasture.




Introduce a spring-sown cereal crop, and

leave as over-wintered stubble – an

unsprayed crop will be most beneficial.

The crop could be harvested as whole-crop

silage.

Introduce arable fodder crops such as

swedes. This will be most beneficial if

established by cultivation and unsprayed.

Unsprayed cereal and root crops and

over-wintered stubble can be funded by

agri-environment schemes.

INTRODUCE PERMANENT PASTURE

TO ARABLE AREAS

● Introduce and manage areas of permanent

pasture (see above).

NEST SITES AND NESTBOXES

● Maintain mature trees both in hedgerows

and around the farm to provide nest holes.

● Try to maintain holes and crevices in brick

and stonework. If it is necessary to block

holes then ensure an alternative nest site is

available by providing a starling nestbox.

● Nestboxes need to be made to specific

dimensions (50 cm x 15 cm x 17 cm with a

45 mm hole), and should be located in loose

groups or near other natural nest sites, as

starlings are loose colonial nesters.

HEDGEROWS, SCATTERED TREES

AND COPSES

Good hedgerow management will also benefit

declining farmland species such as grey

partridges, yellowhammers and bullfinches.






Cut or trim on a two or three-year rotation,

preferably cutting alternate sides each year.

Ideally, cut or trim in January or February.

Fence out from the hedge base to encourage

a well-vegetated base and margin.

Maintain hedgerow trees.

Maintain scattered trees and copses around

the farm.

STARLINGS AND THE LAW

Starlings eat large numbers of invertebrates,

many of which are crop pests. Consequently,

in many countries they are encouraged by

the provision of nestboxes.

Starlings are protected under the Wildlife &

Countryside Act 1981. They can, however, be

controlled by authorised persons under the

terms of a general licence for the prevention

of serious damage to agriculture and for the

preservation of public health and safety.

● As starlings are now of the highest

conservation concern, the RSPB believes that

it is no longer appropriate to control

starlings under general licence. A study by

Defra has found that shooting is apparently

one of the least effective methods of control

and exclusion nets the most effective,

so wherever possible, preventative

management and non-lethal scaring

measures should be used rather then lethal

measures.

KEY POINTS




Manage permanent pasture

to encourage soil-dwelling

insects. Grazing livestock will

allow starlings access to the

soil surface.

Use nestboxes to provide

additional nest sites,

particularly where building

work or the loss of mature

trees means there is a lack

of natural sites.

Introduce arable habitats

to pastoral farming areas

and permanent pasture to

arable areas.

Many of these guidelines may

be funded by agri-environment

schemes. For further

information contact:

Farming Connect, Y Lanfa,

Trefechan, Aberystwyth,

Ceredigion SY23 1AS.

Tel: 08456 000 813

Advisory Officer, The RSPB, North Wales

Office, Maes y Ffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd,

Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DW.

Tel: 01248 363800

Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group

Cymru, Ffordd Arran, Dolgellau,

Gwynedd LL40 1LW.

Tel: 01341 421456

The Game Conservancy

Trust, Fordingbridge,

Hampshire SP6 1EF.

Tel: 01425 652381

Countryside Council for Wales,

Maes y Ffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd,

Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DW.

Tel: 01248 385500

RSPB regd charity no 207076 Line drawing by J Busby

223-1599-04-05

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines