Research carried out by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has persuaded DEFRA to revamp its stewardship schemes, so that farmers will be paid to feed birds in the winter.

The announcement follows two decades of research into why species such as grey partridges, tree sparrows, yellowhammers, and reed buntings have fallen 70 per cent below their natural levels despite the introduction of agri-environment schemes paying farmers to be wildlife-friendly.

A DEFRA spokesman said: ?Populations of some species of farmland birds are still falling and we are doing everything we can to reverse this trend. ?From 1 January next year, under the environmental stewardship scheme, we plan to introduce new options to cover the cost of feeding birds over the winter months when it?s hard for them to find food.?

Dr Alastair Leake, head of the GWCT?s Allerton Project in Leicestershire, where farmland bird numbers doubled in years when additional grain seeds were provided through feed hoppers, said he was ?delighted? at the news.

The rest of this article appears in the 23rd May issue of Shooting Times.

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