Birds, Scythes and Combines: A History of Birds and Agricultural Change

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Birds, Scythes and Combines provides a historical perspective to changes in farmland bird populations in Britain over the past 250 years. Despite the scale of change in habitats and agricultural methods in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries due to enclosure and the spread of high farming, early avifaunas show that farmland birds were little affected. Specialised species of fen and marsh were lost, often as much due to persecution as to habitat destruction, but farmland birds benefited from the appearance of extensive new resources, which aided their adaptation to the altered habitats created by the new farming methods. In addition, many old permanent grass habitats were little altered, leaving a major resevoir of important habitats unchanged. In contrast, modern farming methods, with changes in grassland management, in herbicide use and in harvesting methods particularly, have led to a collapse in the diversity of farmland and to a consequent steep decline in the population size of a high proportion of the farmland birds we see today.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a well-researched book, providing an unparalleled source of information on changes in both farming practice and bird distribution in a single, concise volume. The historical perspective is particularly novel and very welcome. Those engaged in farmland bird research and lovers of the countryside will find this a fascinating and essential read." The Quarterly Review of Biology

"This important account is one that is sorely needed for the North American continent." Indiana Audubon Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521814638
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Shrubb is a retired farmer with a lifelong interest in birds which he has been studying since the late 1950s.
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Table of Contents

1 The agricultural background 1
2 The farmland birds 18
3 Arable farming systems: high farming and before 43
4 Enclosure 66
5 Some thoughts on hedges 114
6 Drainage 127
7 Weeds, weeding and pesticides 156
8 Arable farming systems: after 1945 183
9 Grassland and stock 200
10 Winter food resources 252
11 Labour, machines and buildings 278
12 Exploitation and persecution 306
13 Conclusions 322
App. 1 Estimating areas of important traditional feeding sites for seed-eating birds in British farmland 329
App. 2 Scientific names of birds 333
Bibliography 336
References 341
Index 363
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