Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Two juvenile female great bustards in the snow. Photo © David Kjaer.
As birds which live and feed on the ground, deep snow can be a serious problem for great bustards. We are lucky that in southern England, cold snaps tend to be short and far apart. In countries like Germany, Hungary and Austria, bustards often make cold weather movements, escaping from particularly severe winter weather. This exposes them to dangers such as power lines and wind turbines, and not all the birds which leave will come back. Bustard projects in those countries are therefore keen to prevent their birds from moving. They clear snow from fields of oil seed rape, the favourite winter food of the bustards, effectively creating a huge bustard bird table!
Snow blower attached to our tractor and ready to be deployed
Even in our relatively mild climate, we have work to do to help our bustards when the weather is like it has been over the last week. We prepared for the major snowfall on 18th January by covering small areas of oil seed rape within our release area with tarpaulins, and attaching a snow blower to our tractor. Then, once the snow had stopped, we could remove the tarpaulins and clear more snow from the surrounding oil seed rape. This ensured that the eleven birds at the site would feel no need to move away in search of food.