Game birds do not randomly select nest sites but target particular areas where the habitat provides shelter from poor weather conditions and cover from predators. Good ground nesting cover comprises of tussock-forming grasses such as cocks-foot and other wild grasses that naturally occur at the base of hedgerows or along raised banks.
To conceal their eggs, they prefer dead grasses from previous years of growth near the nest site. Good nesting sites for wild game are on ground slightly elevated; – this reduces the risk of nests flooding out during periods of heavy rain. The quality of hedgerows is also important.
Well-managed hedgerows for game should have dead grasses at the base, – ideally, the base should measure 1.5 meters from the hedge to the adjacent crop. Lowland game birds are creatures of edge habitat. Hedgerows are not the only areas that provide edge type habitat. The edge effect also is achieved by the creation of Beetle Banks.
Beetle banks provide a habitat where predatory beetles and other insects can hibernate during the winter months. Beetle banks are beneficial to the tillage farmer because the insects that have over-wintered in them are predators of crop pests such as aphids. In spring, these insects migrate out to the adjacent crop to hunt for crop pests. This form of biological control reduces the input of insecticides required to control aphids, this in turn provides insect food for game bird chicks other wildlife species.
For game birds, beetle banks have the dual benefit of offering ideal nesting sites and providing a valuable source of invertebrate food. Cheap and easily created by planting grass mixes containing Cocks-Foot, Timothy and Yorkshire Fog, beetle banks can be sown in the middle of a cereal field to create the edge effect, – or on a field boundary – increasing the area already available. If they are sown in the middle of a field – at each end of the bank, a six-meter gap should be left to allow the area to be farmed as one unit.