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Aves, 57/1 | 2020 | 3-25

  Agri-environment-climate schemes to help protect and preserve the population of the Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra in an inten-sively farmed area of Hesbaye (Belgium)
Arnaud Laudelout, Jean-Yves Paquet, Fannie Causse, Benjamin Choppin, Aurore Lledo, Vincent Robert & Thierri Walot

Article is not available in pdf French article available for download in 2022

Article summary

Agri-environment-climate schemes to help protect and preserve the population of the Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra in an intensively farmed area of Hesbaye (Belgium) The Belgian population of Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra is in sharp decline; only a few hundred pairs remain, at the very most. Since 2016, a project is ongoing in Perwez (Brabant Wallon, Belgium). It aims  to protect and preserve this particular breed of bird and also other species that breed on arable land. In an area of 800 ha of intensive agriculture, farmers have applied some specific Agri-Environment  Climate (AEC) measures – some plots of cereals were left standing overwinter, and some extensive  strips of grass were installed. The Corn Bunting population is in the process of being intensively  monitored to see the effects of these measures. Over a period of four years, the number of singing males increased from 10 to 20. The total number of  birds during winter peaked at 73. There was heavy use of the AEC zones as feeding areas. Habitat use varied during the breeding season and from year to year, depending on the vailability of the different crops and their stage of development. In particular, the birds chose crops of sugar beet and chicory and  the oldest strips of perennial grass; the youngest strips did not seem to attract the birds. Most of  the nests (15 of 30) were found in crops of beet, seven were found in wheat and five in crops of  chicory. Eleven of the 16 females that bred successfully had mated with a polygamous male. It seems  that these males occupy the best territories in the study area. One can conclude that these are the  most important habitats for the protection of this population. This study has shown that the decline of  the Corn Bunting can be reversed by local AEC measures, which are suitably targeted. If what had  seemed to be an inexorable extinction is to be avoided, there is still a substantial challenge for the  areas outside the pilot zone. Similar measures need to be set up in the majority of the agricultural  areas at least, where the species can still be found.

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