Bird of the Week: Corn Bunting

This farmland bird is the largest of the buntings, and has a jingly-jangly song.

Thursday, 24 January 2019,
By Caroline Offord
Photographs By Andy Hay, RSPB-images
Photograph by Andy Hay, RSPB

Also known as the fat bird of the barley, it’s a plump little brown bird and is usually seen perched on a wire or post signing loudly – a song that has been described as sounding like a jangling set of keys. It has a fluttering flight with its legs characteristically ‘dangling’. 

Adults feed mainly on seeds, especially cereal grains. Places where they can find seeds include winter stubbles, harvested root crops or places where cereals are fed to outdoor livestock. Corn bunting chicks are fed on insects, and the birds may produce two broods in the season. Breeding success relates directly to the availability of insect food, which is usually greater in crops that receive fewer insecticides and herbicides. 

 

A corn bunting photographed as part of the Cornwall Corn Bunting Recovery Project, commissioned by the RSPB.
Photograph by Andy Hay, RSPB

Like many of our farmland birds, the corn bunting has declined in recent years, with the UK population falling by 89 per cent between 1970 and 2015. The decline is mainly due to fewer seed and insect food sources available to them on farmland. Corn buntings are also a late nesting species, meaning their nests can be destroyed during harvesting or cutting. 

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