Birds of conservation and seed-eating birds flourish on uncultivated, overwinter stubbles, according to a project carried out in south Cork in the winter and spring of 2022 and 2023.

In the study, the numbers of birds of conservation fell dramatically from 796 on over-winter stubble to 454 on stubbles that were shallow cultivated, a drop of 342.

Commenting on the survey, Oonagh Duggan from BirdWatch Ireland stated: “This study shows the importance of winter stubble and wild bird cover crops for overwintering birds.

“We are extremely concerned about the effect of the Government order to shallow cultivate winter stubble without a prior assessment of its effect on threatened bird species, including annex species like Hen Harrier and Golden Plover and without adequate information on the effectiveness of the measure for water quality.

“At a time when we need to restore farmland bird populations from critically low levels, Government is going in the opposite direction.”

She called on the Government to incentivise farmers to have winter stubbles.

“We call on Government to rethink this requirement and to adequatly incentivise unsprayed winter stubbles.

“Cereal stubble is like a giant bird table that a number of threatened bird species depend on over the winter and it should be recognised as such.”