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Corn Bunting

Milaria calandra

UK ConservationUK ConservationIrish ConservationIrish ConservationSteep declineFrownFrown

Distribution Britain 921 (-32.1%) Ireland 11 (-83.8%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 19,800 Ireland <30
European status: 4,600,000 (0% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: severe decline (-74% CBC){-85%}
How likely are you to record it? 308 squares (6.9%) Ranked 71

The Corn Bunting was very widely distributed at the end of the 19th century but so dependant on arable farming that it did not penetrate far, if at all, into upland areas. It does not depend on trees or bushes and, presumably because of the lack of competition, was particularly numerous in the outlying farmland of, for instance, the Outer Hebrides. The decline in cereal growing from 1870 to 1930 was probably responsible for the losses recorded in many areas. There was a recovery for 20 or 30 years but then a further, steeper, decline set in. In Ireland the population had always been most plentiful on the coast but by 1950 they were confined to 'cultivated headlands and coasts'. Huge gaps had appeared in the distribution by the first Breeding Atlas and by the second the occupied 10-km squares had been reduced by 32% in Britain and in Ireland by almost 84%! They may now be extinct in Ireland. There may be a few pairs left in North-east Wales. In Scotland the Uists and Tiree, the Solway and the East coast are almost the only areas still occupied. In England the losses are concentrated in the North and South. The 25-year CBC decline (1972-96) was 74% and the five-year BBS (1994-98) was 42%! The lack of seed-rich winter stubbles and spring-sown barley have been implicated along with the use of pesticides and reduction of mixed farming. One has to seriously wonder whether this inoffensive and unspectacular bird will survive in Britain.

Donald, P.F., Wilson, J.D. & Shepherd, M. 1994 British Birds: 87, 106-131.
Donald, P.F. et al. 1996 Scottish Birds: 18, 170-181.
UKBAP MAFF RSPB & English Nature.

The following Bird On! sketch is available:

Corn Bunting

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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead

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