• Ecological value of different vegetated strip types in providing valuable insect-rich habitats for grey partridge chicks

      Volpato, A.; Moran, J.; National Parks and Wildlife Service Grey Partridge Project (Teagasc, 2021-12-14)
      The intensification and specialisation of agriculture has contributed to farmland wildlife decline, including farmland birds. Grey partridge is a farmland species which has experienced a significant decline across Europe in recent decades. Chick survival rate is a key determinant of grey partridge population change and depends essentially on the availability of insect food. In this study, ground-dwelling and canopy-dwelling insects were collected using pitfall trapping and sweep netting methodologies, respectively, on different strip types in an area established for the conservation of grey partridge. The aim was to further our understanding of the value of different vegetated strip types in providing insect-rich habitats for grey partridge chicks. Overall, wildflower strip (WS) provided the greatest insect abundance. Significantly more ground-dwelling insects were found on WS, natural regeneration (NS) and leguminous strips (LS) than on grass strip (GS). Canopy-dwelling insects were also significantly more abundant on WS compared to all other strip types. This study highlights that WSs may represent important habitats in providing insect-rich food for grey partridge chicks and sowing these strips may therefore play a key role in decreasing chick mortality and supporting grey partridge conservation. It also demonstrates that other different vegetated strip types may still provide strip-specific insect taxa, in addition to other valuable resources. This study recommends a complex mosaic of different strip types to provide key resources for grey partridge, such as insect and plant food, nesting habitats and overwinter cover.