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!!