Birds, Bugs, and Farming

A growing human population increases pressure on agricultural practices, and, with an integrated global market place, farmers are constantly upgrading to remain competitive. Alberta's landscape is used for just that purpose. The challenge comes from trying to balance human agricultural needs with wildlife habitat needs.

This is where the Enchant Farm project comes in. Going into the third of 12 years sees us focused on developing approaches that increase upland game birds (while also monitoring non-target species like amphibians and birds). We are trialing habitat enhancements to increase populations of grey partridge (Huns!) as well as trying to establish a sustainable pheasant population.

Enchant Farm works like its own little ecosystem. To ensure viable numbers of upland game birds, we have to make sure they have food and shelter. Food comes in the form of insects, but in order to attract the valued ones we enhance uncultivated strips in strategic areas around the farm. As far as shelter goes, partridge in particular value tall standing cover within the core of their territory to escape from predators. Pheasants use tall, woody habitat as well, but also head for wetlands with thick cattail areas when snow and cold winter winds set in.  

Enchant Farm enables us to trial innovative techniques to measure the cost and benefits for both wildlife and farming yield. We focus on the edge areas around the farm, as well as those areas that return inconsistent yields from one year to the next. Small wetlands, pivot corners, and shrub rows are hot zones for gamebirds, but also provide essential habitat for pollinators too!

The balance between conservation and a profitable farm can tread a fine line where the small things really add up for wildlife. Finding this balance takes effort, but we think the time and work involved is worth it.

  • Project cost: $170,798


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