Figures published today by Defra show that the long term decline in farmland birds has stabilised and has reversed for a number of species in recent years, such as the greenfinch and stockdove.
The long term decline since 1966 has halted, stabilising since 2000, and there are now signs that it may be going up.
Nature Conservation Minister Ben Bradshaw today welcomed these new figures showing encouraging trends in farmland bird numbers:
"Although numbers remain historically low, they appear to have stabilised, and we may now be starting to see the start of an upward trend. It is too soon to say whether the changes reflect improvements in farming practices, although we believe that the £553m we have invested in agri-environment schemes since 2000 is making a significant contribution.
"What is clear is that we need to encourage further positive changes in land management, to secure a long-term upward trend in the health of farmland ecosystems and in farmland bird numbers. The cross-compliance requirements that farmers now need to meet in order to receive CAP subsidies will play a part in that.
"Farmers are now able to apply for the new Environmental Stewardship programme, which has widespread support from the industry and from environmental stakeholders. Under Entry Level Environmental Stewardship, which is backed by £150 million of new money, we are hoping to bring upwards of 70% of English farmland into positive environmental management over the next few years. This should create a much greater supply of suitable breeding and feeding habitats for farmland birds and other wildlife.
"Higher Level Environmental Stewardship will provide benefits for farmland birds via a more targeted approach to habitat management. This is likely to provide significant additional benefits for many of the specialist farmland bird species, such as grey partridge and corn bunting, which still have declining populations.
"Our efforts to secure reform to the CAP mean that in future there will be a much closer link between the money that farmers receive from the taxpayer, and the positive environmental contribution that farmers make to the landscape and biodiversity that we all enjoy. "