Bird of the Week: Yellowhammer

Thursday, March 21, 2019,
By Caroline Offord
Photograph by Chris Gomersall, RSPB Images

Male yellowhammers are unmistakable with a striking bright yellow head and underparts and brown and black back. In flight their white outer tail feathers become visible. They are often seen perched on top of a hedge or bush, singing, near farmland. They rarely come into gardens. They eat seeds but chicks are fed on insects, in particular caterpillars. 

Their song is a familiar sound in the summer countryside and if you listen carefully sounds a  bit like they’re saying ‘a little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeese!’ Lots of birds stop singing on hot summer afternoons but the yellowhammer will chirp happily all day. 

They are seen around the UK but sadly, a recent decline in numbers mean they are a ‘red list species’ and of utmost concern to conservationists. The reasons are similar to that of many farmland birds nowadays – intense farming, indirect use of pesticides and loss of grassland among others. They feed and nest on the ground, often in a bank or under a bush and this can make them vulnerable too.

The Yellowhammer is on the UK 'red list' – meaning its distribution is of most concern to conservationists.
Photograph by Tom Marshall, rspb-images.com
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