Growing evidence suggests that biodiversity in the agricultural landscape is declining sharply. Farmland birds are particularly affected, e.g. the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) population has been decreasing strongly in Germany and Europe. Up to now the European Union has tried to tackle the problem of biodiversity loss mainly with voluntary (second pillar) agri-environmental schemes financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). However, only a small fraction of the agricultural land is enrolled in such programs. We analyse different schemes promoting lapwings in order to identify drivers and inhibitors of acceptance. The analysis is based on a discrete choice experiment with 270 arable farmers in Germany. Results show that those scheme attributes associated with EAFRD compliance, the type of sanctioning and a minimum participation period of five years, markedly reduce the farmers’ acceptance. The results have several policy implications. First, it shows clearly that the maximum support rates for agri-environmental and climate measures according to Art. 28 of EU 1305/2013 laid down in Annex 2 are set too low to achieve an effective implementation of the measure. Second, Eco-Schemes which are an element of the European Commission’s legislative proposal for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could be a valid option to address some of the identified caveats. Eco-Schemes that shall be part of the future direct payments will presumably produce higher participation rates since they offer greater flexibility due to the minimum period of only one year and the late timing of the farmers’ decision until mid-May of the running year. In addition, they could provide additional basic income support and not just compensate for the income loss associated with the protection measure.