AB9: Winter bird food

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the winter bird food option.

How much will be paid

£640 per hectare (ha).

If used as Ecological Focus Area (EFA): £271 per ha.

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


Only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • On organic parcels or land in conversion

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides important food resources for farmland birds, especially in autumn and winter.

If successful there will be:

  • an abundant and available supply of small seeds during the autumn and winter months
  • farmland birds eating the seeds from October and beneficial insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies using the flowers during the summer


  • between 1 March and 15 June, establish a seed mix of cereals, brassicas and other plants which produce small edible seeds to meet the autumn, winter and spring food needs of the following farmland birds where one or more is targeted in the area:
    • grey partridge
    • tree sparrow
    • corn bunting
    • turtle dove
    • cirl bunting
  • blocks or strips must be at least 6m wide and a minimum of 0.4ha in size - the maximum individual plot size is 5ha
  • re-establish the mix using plants from the “What to sow” section if the first mixture fails to establish
  • maintain seed production by re-establishing every year for annual mixtures and every 2 years where mixtures have plants that deliver feed over 2 winters

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • seed invoices
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the blocks or strips

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

Pick the right location

Use this option on most areas of the farm, but mixtures work best in sunny locations and on fertile sites.

Avoid planting underneath overhanging trees or next to shading woodland, as this leads to poorer establishment, growth and seed production.

Winter bird food mixes should be placed next to a field edge but can extend into the field. Leave access to surrounding crops to allow for management.

Block and plot sizes

Creating wider and bigger areas of winter bird food allows more seeds to remain undiscovered for longer, which extends their value well into winter. It also reduces the edge effect from adjacent land, such as fertiliser or pesticide drift.

Smaller areas tend to suffer from birds eating all the food within a short time.

What to sow

Sow plants that offer a spread of seed across the late autumn and winter.

Annual mixtures should include species like barley, triticale, quinoa, linseed, millet, mustard, fodder radish and sunflower. Include kale in 2-year mixtures. The mixture should cover a range of crop groups to minimise any pest and disease risks.

No single species should make up more than 70% by weight of the mix.

The following plants do not produce small seeds, as required, and so are not permitted:

  • maize
  • tick beans
  • giant sorghum
  • canary grass
  • sweet clover
  • artichokes

When and how to sow

Establish the plot between 1 March and 15 June, but ideally between mid-March and early June.

Create a fine and firm seedbed with seed sown at a depth between 1.5cm and 2.5cm. Moisture and warmth will help any brassicas establish quickly to protect against flea beetle damage.

Managing the option

Nitrogen applied at a minimum of 50kg per ha will create sufficient growth to smother annual weeds and produce plenty of seed. Herbicides can be used in some winter bird food mixes; check with a BASIS-qualified agronomist. Rotate this option to a new site of clean ground if weed problems start to build up.

Remember that winter bird food should be in place until at least 31 December in year 5 of the agreement.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.