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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 03:44 GMT 04:44 UK
Bid to reverse farm bird decline
Grey partridge
The grey partidge is nearly extinct in parts of England
Dairy farmers are to apply for government funding to help reverse a serious decline in UK farmland birds.

Intensive grazing and frequent mowing of grassland on dairy farms has hit populations of birds like the turtle dove, grey partridge and corn bunting.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and farming groups are to bid for funding for demonstration farms that will highlight less damaging methods.

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy will offer similar funding from 2005.

The funding - for adopting environmentally friendly methods - will be available thorugh the Common Agricultural Policy's new Entry Level Scheme.

Gethin Davis, livestock adviser at the RSPB, said: "Taking advantage of the new scheme could make a huge difference to bird numbers on grassland without affecting the livelihoods of the farmers putting wildlife-friendly measures into practice.

"Up until now, there has been very little help for dairy farmers keen to encourage wildlife on their farms and it is important that they know that these opportunities are now available."

The RSPB says the grey partridge and corn bunting are all but extinct in parts of the South West, West Midlands and North West, while turtle doves are disappearing from south-western England and Wales.

More than 90% of farmland in those areas is devoted to dairy and livestock production.

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