Promoting birds in vineyards

    Vineyards must once again become a refuge for threatened bird species – both for breeding birds and winter visitors. The Swiss Ornithological Institute promotes natural methods of viticulture.

    Aims

    Vineyards can be attractive habitats for many bird species, amongst them many threatened species of the Red List. The suitability of vineyards for birds largely depends on their management. In this project, the habitat requirements of vineyard bird species in the course of the year are examined and suitable management options are developed. These are tested and implemented in vineyards in the Canton of Valais.

    Approach

    The comparison of vineyards in terms of species composition and bird numbers and in terms of management forms will show how vine parcels can be managed to produce high-quality wine and provide a habitat for birds at the same time. The findings will be implemented with the help of winegrower associations.

    Significance

    Vineyards in Switzerland cover about 150 km2 and a third of them are located in the Valais. Vineyards have a large potential to harbour threatened farmland bird species which hardly find suitable habitat elsewhere. With simple schemes, vineyards can be enhanced to promote hoopoe, woodlark, whitethroat and cirl bunting.

    Results

    In several studies investigating the habitat needs of all bird species in the course of the year in winegrowing regions of the Valais, the importance of vineyards for both wintering birds and breeding birds was confirmed. Vineyards characterised by a sparse vegetation cover in all four seasons are particularly important for birds. Low hedgerows and clusters of trees between the vineyard parcels also appear to have a positive effect on both species diversity and the number of birds.

    An interesting finding is that different bird species have different preferences. For example, the Woodlark likes short and sparse vegetation, while the Common Linnet prefers taller herbaceous plants with a rich mixture of seeds. An optimal plant cover is highly diverse and ideally forms spontaneously (without sowing).

    Project management

    Alain Jacot

    Partners

    VITIVAL

    Publications