Birds bias offspring sex ratio in response to livestock grazing

Gina L Prior, Darren M Evans, Stephen Redpath, Simon J Thirgood, Pat Monaghan

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Livestock grazing, which has a large influence on habitat structure, is associated with the widespread decline of various bird species across the world, yet there are few experimental studies that investigate how grazing pressure influences avian reproduction. We manipulated grazing pressure using a replicated field experiment, and found that the offspring sex ratio of a common upland passerine, the meadow pipit Anthus pratensis, varied significantly between grazing treatments. The proportion of sons was lowest in the ungrazed and intensively grazed treatments and highest in treatments grazed at low intensity (by sheep, or a mixture of sheep and cattle). This response was not related to maternal body condition. These results demonstrate the sensitivity of avian reproductive biology to variation in local conditions, and support growing evidence that too much grazing, or the complete removal of livestock from upland areas, is detrimental for common breeding birds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-960
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date11 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2011


  • meadow pipit
  • uplands
  • cattle
  • sheep
  • molecular sexing
  • insectivorous passerine
  • size
  • conservation
  • populations
  • Scotland
  • Britain


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