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Corn Bunting Recovery Project

Cornwall’s Corn Bunting Recovery Project

 

Why are Cornwall’s corn buntings so important?

The corn bunting is an open country bird that is invariably found on arable farmland. In the past 25 years the corn bunting has declined by over 80% in the UK and has disappeared from over 30% of its former range. Corn buntings are now extinct in Devon and Somerset and the only population west of a line between Bristol and Dorchester occurs in north Cornwall between Newquay and Padstow. This makes the Cornish population of no more than 50 pairs at risk and the focus of RSPB work in Cornwall.

What's being done to save corn buntings from extinction in Cornwall?

The RSPB has an adviser (Claire) who works with farmers to ensure the corn buntings have the habitat they need: safe places to nest and lots of seed and invertebrate rich areas to feed. Most of the habitat is in place and managed under Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme which compensates farmers for managing land in ways that will really benefit wildlife.  Claire is able to help the farmers with their stewardship applications and give advice.

What do corn buntings eat?

Corn buntings are quite typical of farmland birds in that they feed on seeds and grain during the winter and require invertebrates during the summer to feed their chicks. In winter they feed in weedy stubble fields, grain spilt from stock feeders, whilst towards the end of winter the birds will feed on freshly drilled cereals. In summer rough grassland and flower rich areas are very important for foraging habitats as the birds can find insects like grasshoppers and spiders to feed on.

Where do they nest?

Corn buntings nest on the ground well away from hedges. In spring corn buntings mainly nest in sown barley fields and in long grassland.  Their habit of choosing to nest in long grass has its hazards because grass is usually cut for silage just at the time when corn buntings are raising young. Cutting of the grass and food availability are the main contributory factors in the birds long-term decline. Corn buntings nest later than most other farmland birds starting in mid May and can still have broods in late August.

Corn buntings at St Eval Candle Company Farm

At the Farm some fields are managed with late hay cut to give safe nesting areas for the farm birds. There are unharvested spring barley areas to provide food and safe habitats.

A network of wild flowers and rough grass margins around the fields also attract the insects that corn buntings feed their chicks on. Management that is targeted at corn buntings is really good for lots of other species too particularly arable plants and butterflies. We know there are corn buntings using areas very close by so we are extremely hopeful that soon visitors to the St Eval Candle Company will be able to see and hear them!

For more information on corn buntings, the RSPB in Cornwall, or managing land for farmland wildlife please contact claire.mucklow@rspb.org.uk
Telephone: 01392 453775 / 07764 230246

http://www.rspb.org.uk/whatwedo/projects/details/223619-cornwall-corn-bunting-project