Small scale trials of potential solutions to farmland bird decline before use in larger scale research trials or agri-environment scheme options, RSPB Hope Farm, Cambridgeshire

A brighter future for farmland wildlife

We're working with farmers to turn around the fortunes of the UK's threatened farmland species.

Cirl bunting project

With 75% of the UK's land used for agriculture, what happens on farmland is vital for nature.

That's why we work closely with farmers to promote simple wildlife-friendly farming techniques that will boost the populations of the UK's struggling farmland species. 

One such species is the cirl bunting. This little bird was on the brink of extinction just a quarter of a century ago, with barely more than 100 pairs left in Britain. But now, it's bucking the overall downward trend for most other farmland birds, with 1,079 pairs recorded in 2016 – an amazing increase of more than 800%.

This phenomenal rise is down to the hard work and dedication of all those involved in our Cirl Bunting Project, which reached its 25th anniversary in 2016.

Following research by the RSPB into the reasons for cirl bunting declines, we teamed up with Natural England in 1995, as part of the Action for Birds in England programme.

Together, we helped more than 200 farmers in south-west England to take up agri-environment schemes to manage their land for cirl buntings. Without the hard work of these farmers the cirl bunting’s outstanding comeback simply wouldn’t have been possible, so we are incredibly grateful to them all.

Chris Sutton-Scott-Tucker, owner of Great Combe Farm in Devon, says: “The project made it easy to use a Countryside Stewardship Scheme to manage my land to help wildlife, without seeing a drop in my farming income. Since then I have enjoyed seeing all different types of wildlife making a home on the farm and I look forward to continuing with the RSPB in the future.”

Our vision for farmland and nature

When it was announced in June 2016 that the UK would be leaving the European Union, we quickly realised that Brexit would be one of the defining events for farming in living memory.

Despite some notable successes of the Common Agricultural Policy's agri-environment schemes, they are simply too limited. If we are to make a success of Brexit for nature, we will need future environment, farming and rural development policies to drive the restoration of nature across the countryside.

That’s why we joined forces with WWF, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust to make the case for fundamental reform of farm policy in the UK, so that it works better for nature and people.

We believe that the future of food, farming and nature is inextricably linked – the sustainability of food production depends on natural resources, while nature depends on farmers having the right support to enable them to manage their land to the benefit of wildlife.

We launched our vision for farming at the Conservative Party conference in September 2016, but this was just the first step in our advocacy work. In February 2017 we teamed up with 12 other organisations, as part of the Greener UK coalition, to launch a manifesto calling on the Government to restore and enhance the environment.

Since then 200 MPs from all parties have signed Greener UK's Pledge for the Environment and we will continue to ensure that farming and nature stay on the political agenda. The opportunity to create policies that drive truly sustainable land management is not one we can afford to miss.