Conserving biodiversity through supporting or mimicking traditional management of anthropogenic habitats is a paradigm in the developed world, particularly Europe. It is rarely applied in developing countries where forest biota are more common foci. We quantified the numbers of globally threatened bird species using anthropogenic habitats and examined scientific literature to identify those that are dependent on low‐impact agriculture in the developing world. Such dependency is distinct from species using farmland to supplement or move between their remnant natural habitats. We show that low‐impact agriculture is important to a number of threatened open‐habitat species in a variety of farming systems. However, these systems are expected to undergo widespread transformation due to economic change. Conservation must identify valuable farmed landscapes and seek new mechanisms to maintain or mimic important land‐management techniques in developing countries. A suite of policy instruments should be considered to provide incentives or development benefits that encourage farmers to manage landscapes for wildlife. The land sparing approach to balancing biodiversity conservation and agricultural production will be detrimental to those open‐habitat bird species dependent on agriculture; a mix of agricultural land‐use types may offer the best compromise.