Your Birding Month
Five birds to find include Spotted Flycatcher, Barn Owl and Wood Sandpiper
NOT A BIRD ON most UK birders’ everyday radar, the Cirl Bunting is one of our most geographically restricted small birds. The entire breeding population (of fewer than 900 pairs) is in the south-west of England, mainly in coastal south Devon. It is a familiar bird across southern Europe, and used to be distributed, and indeed common, across most of southern England. But, largely owing to changes to farming practice (and a consequent loss of food sources and nesting sites), the breeding contracted to the county of Devon. This breeding population numbered about 450 pairs in 1998 and, owing to concerted efforts to change farming methods as well as a reintroduction scheme in Cornwall, the number of nesting pairs has now doubled. The RSPB’S Cirl Bunting Project has a breeding population of greater than 1,000 pairs by 2020 as one of its key targets. They are similar to Yellowhammers, but the males have striking, black and yellow faces, including a black throat, there is a green breast band and the rump is green (not chestnut). Females are like toned down versions of males. The song is a bit like a Yellowhammer who forgot that it didn’t want any cheese, resembling the rattling song of the Lesser Whitethroat. And the calls are soft, high-pitched notes.