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Birds, Scythes and Combines - A History of Birds and Agricultural Change

Michael Shrubb 
Cambridge University Press  July 2003  



Hardback  382 pp, 36 diags, 28 illus, 35 tabs, 40 maps  ISBN 9780521814638      £56.00
Birds, Scythes and Combines provides an historical perspective to changes in farmland bird populations in Britain over the past 250 years. Despite the scale of change in habitats and agricultural methods in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, early avifaunas show that farmland birds were little affected. Specialised species of fen and marsh were lost, often as much to persecution as habitat destruction, but farmland birds benefited from the appearance of extensive new resources which aided their adaptation to the altered habitats created by the new farming methods. In addition, many old permanent grass habitats were little altered, leaving a major reservoir of important habitats unchanged. By contrast, modern farming methods, with changes in grassland management, in herbicide use and in harvesting methods particularly, have led to a collapse in the diversity of farmland and a consequent steep decline in the population size of a high proportion of farmland birds.

Reviews

€€ a fascinating and timely book € Michael Shrubb € has a virtually unrivalled knowledge of his subject €€.
British Trust for Ornithology

€€ both a pleasure and a sorrow to read € the author is to be congratulated putting forward some interesting ideas € Where this book really wins is that it is written by an €ornithological farmer€ who has seen at first hand the effects that the dramatic changes in agricultural practices have had on wildlife in the second half of the last century€.
Ibis

€Michael Shrubb has done all the hard work of trawling through the literature and has produced a book that is comprehensive and highly readable € Birds, Scythes and Combines will provide a valuable reference.€
British Wildlife

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