The UK Cirl Bunting population exceeds one thousand pairs

Published on 06 March 2018 in Main articles

By Cath Jeffs, Stuart Croft, Andrew Bradbury, Phil Grice and Simon Wotton

Abstract The latest full survey of breeding Cirl Buntings Emberiza cirlus in the UK, in 2016, recorded an estimated 1,079 territories in 186 occupied tetrads. The UK population is still largely confined to south Devon but there is now a self-sustaining population of 65 pairs in south Cornwall, established through a reintroduction project and considered the first successful passerine reintroduction in Europe. There is some evidence of natural recolonisation elsewhere in Devon and Cornwall. Between the 2009 and 2016 surveys, the size of the breeding population increased by 25% and the number of occupied tetrads by 37%. Overall, since conservation action commenced in the late 1980s, the population has increased nine-fold. This is directly linked to the delivery of relevant options within agri-environment schemes. This paper describes the results of the 2016 survey and conservation measures that have facilitated population recovery to date.

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John White, volunteer warden at Labrador Bay, spreading seed in late September 2016. As part of the Cirl Bunting recovery project, a network of volunteers across the current range are supplied with seed to set up winter feeding sites. These provide an accessible source of food to ensure that severe weather does not threaten the population. At Labrador Bay it has the added bonus of ensuring that birds on the reserve are readily visible for visitors. Rob Scott/

Male Cirl Bunting feeding in stubble left over winter as a food source. Labrador Bay RSPB reserve, Devon, England. March 2009. Andy Hay/