Killing off our wild bird populations will kill the sustainability of our food production system
BirdWatch Ireland and Bird- Life Europe have revealed that farmland bird populations in Ireland and across Europe are at their lowest levels since records began.
Due to this dramatic decline in the numbers of so many species, the figures have received widespread publicity, including criticism about modern farming methods.
We must try to understand the importance of protecting our remaining wild bird populations and ensure that the farm organisations do not engage in anti-conservationist ranting.
Criticising the work that conservationists carry out would be not only stupid but positively harmful. This type of reaction just gives farming a bad name and ensures that we lose the trust of the wider community and those who shape farming policy.
It is too simplistic to argue that we don't need corncrakes or skylarks and that the financial wellbeing of farmers overshadows any environmental considerations. We do need them and while most farmers make good efforts to preserve and enhance habitat for wildlife, modern farming practices can be harmful in many ways.
Bird Watch Ireland in no way blames Irish farmers for the decline but, unfortunately, intensive farming creates difficulties for almost all wildlife. Monocultures of grain and grasses provide little food for seed eaters unless generous margins are left at the headlands.
Early mowing for silage removes vital springtime habitat. Drainage destroys wetlands and the damage done by removing hedgerows is well known.
Pesticides can kill far more than the target 'pests' by also harming beneficial insects and the birds that feed on them, and continuous tillage depletes the organic matter in the soil.