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Skylark

The skylark is originally a bird species of the steppe. In Switzerland, the skylark prefers open arable land and grassland with short and sparse vegetation. It avoids all tall structures such as trees, hedges and settlements. Since the 1970s, agricultural intensification has caused many populations to severely decline in much of Europe. Also in Switzerland, the population has decreased constantly, and the skylark has vanished from many regions. It was therefore listed as potentially threatened on the Red List already in 2001 and again in 2010.

Aims

In Switzerland, the causes for the decline of the skylark on farmland are sufficiently known. Despite this knowledge, it has not yet been possible to implement skylark-favouring conservation measures on a large-scale. In a first step, we will thus actively approach skylark conservation in selected areas. These areas are thought to serve as case studies and should result in increased acceptance of skylark conservation.

Apart from applied conservation projects, we wish to gain further insights in a second step by answering the following questions:

  • Does neighbouring, permanent grassland influence the skylark’s use of arable crops containing undrilled patches? How do other surrounding crop types influence the use of crops with undrilled patches?
  • Are there differences in the use of undrilled patches implemented in different crop types (comparison of undrilled patches in a variety of crops)?
  • Is breeding success higher in vegetated maize fields (i.e. direct drilled or undersown maize) than in conventional maize fields?

Approach

Using existing data, we will first investigate where good populations of skylarks (hot spots) in Switzerland still exist. Here, conservation efforts will be intensified with the aid of local, cantonal and national partners. We will put together a management catalogue including various conservation measures along with options for financial compensation within the Swiss agri-environment scheme.

Mixed, small-parcelled farming (several crop types, little grassland), increased cultivation of spring-sown cereals and in-field measures (wider-sown rows, undrilled patches in various arable crops) are favourable to skylarks. Extensively-used, late-cut meadows and sparsely vegetated wildflower areas (sown-in set-asides) are also known to promote skylarks. Those areas should be at least 10 m wide, make up at least 5% of the agriculturally used area and must be evenly distributed.

Significance

Conservation and recovery of skylark populations is only possible in close collaboration with various partners. Farmers have to be won for the  implementation of suitable conservation measures (e.g. project “scoring with biodiversity”). We will illustrate that ecological compensation (agri-environment scheme) is indispensable for the conservation of many farmland birds and that conservation and food production can be combined.

Project management

Stephanie Michler, Judith Zellweger-Fischer, Markus Jenny, Reto Spaar

Partners

IP-Suisse
Bio Suisse
Trägerschaften von Vernetzungsprojekten
BAFU
Schweizer Vogelschutz SVS/BirdLife Schweiz

Publications

Jenny, M., S. Michler, J. Zellweger-Fischer, S. Birrer & R. Spaar (2014):
Feldlerche fördern. Faktenblatt