Cereal steppe habitat is a low intensive system that is rapidly disappearing as a result of changes in agricultural practices, and has the highest number of bird species with an Unfavourable Conservation Status of any habitat in Europe. A logistic regression model showed that the lesser kestrel, a globally threatened species, prefers to forage close to colonies, selects fields with livestock and avoids tree plantations. The conservation of this species is dependent on maintenance of extensive agriculture characterised by a rotation of cereal and grazed fallow. Abandonment of traditional agriculture and recent changes in agri-environmental programme support, which favour afforestation, are jeopardising the future of cereal steppes. Agri-environment measures are likely to be the most effective means of retaining the specific characteristics of cereal steppe habitat.