Move from tillage bad news for birds, TDs told

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 00:00

The moves away from small-scale tillage in the west of Ireland has had a huge effect on the farmland bird population, the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine heard yesterday.

Dr Alex Copland, senior conservation officer with BirdWatch Ireland, said a lot of farmland bird populations had declined in the west because tillage had become specialised and small farmers were no longer growing crops in one or two fields. These crops provided food for the birds as well as protection.

“Certainly I think there is a huge issue in the west of Ireland and we see that a lot of our farmland bird populations have declined because of a loss of small-scale tillage,” he said. “Now you pretty much have grass all the way from Donegal to Kerry whereas before there would have been the acre of oats. There would have been the acre of potatoes.”

Dr Copland said a lot of these seed-eating birds had disappeared from the west of Ireland.

Anja Murray, also from BirdWatch Ireland, said birds were good indicators of the health of the countryside and so a fall in numbers pointed to problems with the ecosystem.

“This tells us that we need to do more to maintain the balance of nature across Irish farmland,” she said.