Cirl buntings bounce back!

Great news from the RSPB’s cirl bunting project in South West England, as the population has grown to over 1000 pairs.

Cirl buntings are one of the UK’s most threatened farmland birds, with just 118 pairs recorded in 1989. During the course of the 20th century, changes in farming practices led to a reduction in food supplies and nesting sites, and the species suffered a severe population decline.

Cirl buntings nest in scrub or hedgerows and feed their young on grasshoppers and other invertebrates over the summer. In the winter, they feed on seeds and grain in weedy stubble fields. As they are a sedentary species, moving very little between their nesting and foraging sites, they need these sites to be close together.

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Cirl bunting after a successful foraging trip. Photo: Keith Cowieson

Over the last 25 years, the project has been working closely with land managers in Devon and Cornwall to provide sufficient food and habitat for the birds all year round.

By enrolling into agri-environment schemes, farmers are compensated for making wildlife-friendly choices on their land. This includes over-wintering stubble to provide seed food during colder months, and planting grass margins at the edge of fields to support habitats for insects and spiders that would act as a summer food source.

This work has also benefited other farmland birds such as linnets, skylarks and yellowhammer. A fantastic achievement and great to hear of some songbird success!!




Saving Our Dawn Chorus

What is behind the continuing decline of our songbirds today? What are the underlying reasons and what potential solutions should be investigated?

SongBird Survival is committed to finding out the answers to these questions through commissioning quality scientific research into the issue.

In 2016, we produced a short film, presented by ecologist Katy Thomas, introducing SongBird Survival and looking at where the UK’s famous dawn chorus is heading.

Since the 1970s, populations of songbirds in the UK have crashed, and our dawn chorus is far less rich and diverse than it was in our parents’ and grandparents’ day.

Yellowhammer populations have declined by 55%, cornbunting numbers are down by 87%, whilst tree sparrows have suffered a rapid decline of 95%. These figures are shocking, but what is causing our small birds populations to crash? Loss of habitat? Predation? Intensification of farming?

SongBird Survival believes that research is the key to understanding why.

We fund high quality scientific research to investigate the drivers behind these population declines and promote evidence-based solutions to restore songbird numbers.

With your support we hope to draw attention to the plight of our song and other small birds. Your membership and donations help to fund our research programme and add weight to our work with other organisations. Together, we can save our songbirds before it’s too late.

To find out more about our research and objectives, watch our YouTube video.

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We partner with like-minded organisations to commission targeted research into areas where scientific evidence is currently sparse, inadequate or lacking.

To date we have partnered with the University of Exeter, the University of Reading, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the University of St Andrews, in projects which examine the potential causes behind songbird population decline. Such research produces high-quality, peer-reviewed research papers, contributing to ornithological and ecological knowledge in the UK.

We have exciting future projects in the pipeline, and will be bringing you news of this very soon. In the mean time, further information about our current and past research programmes can be seen on our website.

SongBird Survival: Saving Songbirds With Science