Cirl Bunting, Emberiza cirlus, adult male feeding in straw, on a Devon farm.

Conservation

A lowland farmland bird, the cirl bunting has specific requirements for habitat and climate, and has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers to a low point of only 118 pairs in 1989.

Population decline

The cause of the population decline was probably changes in farming practices, particularly the switch to autumn sowing of cereals and the widespread use of broad-spectrum herbicides.

Carefully-targeted habitat improvements funded by agri-environment schemes and implemented by local farmers with help from specialist advisors, has led to an increase in the cirl bunting population to 862 pairs in 2009.

Currently restricted to a small area in the south of Devon, RSPB is leading a reintroduction scheme in Cornwall, aiming to increase the range and therefore sustainability of this extremely vulnerable species in the UK.