The Cirl Bunting Project
The Cirl Bunting Project is a fantastic example of how the use of sound science and research can allow implementation of practical solutions for a declining species whilst also benefiting farmers.
- To reach 1,000 pairs of cirl buntings by 2020 or sooner and a population which is stable or increasing.
- To offer advice and support to landowners within the birds' current range and to promote sympathetic land management for the cirl bunting.
- To develop a network of sympathetically-managed sites throughout the cirl buntings' current range.
- To work with Natural England, local authorities and developers to ensure that the impacts of development are minimised and offset.
- To establish a self-sustaining geographically separate population (see our reintroduction project page).
- During the past 25 years, through the provision of RSPB advice, support from agri-environment funding and the enthusiastic response from farmers, the cirl bunting population has increased to 862 pairs (2009). However, this species remains vulnerable in the UK, particularly from development pressure and uncertainty around the future of agri-environment funding.
- 1988: The RSPB began research into cirl bunting ecology and the reasons behind their decline.
- 1989: The RSPB and Devon Birdwatching and Preservation Society undertook a cirl bunting survey, which began to highlight the issues of a severe decline. There were just 118 pairs left in the UK, mainly confined to Devon.
- 1992: The Countryside Stewardship Scheme (a Government-funded agri-environment scheme) introduced a cirl bunting 'special project' option for farmers to provide low input spring barley crops which, after harvest, were left as weedy stubbles until the end of March, so providing important sources of winter seed food. This particular cropping option was recommended by the RSPB on the basis of its scientific findings and targeted in the right places on farms within the cirl bunting's range, providing a lifeline for them (and other farmland birds) over winter.
- 1993: The RSPB employed a cirl bunting project officer to work with farmers and landowners to encourage suitable habitat provision for the birds.
- 1997: Research began to look into the feasibility of possible sites for a cirl bunting reintroduction programme.
- 1998: The RSPB national cirl bunting survey recorded 450 pairs, which were still mainly restricted to south Devon.
- 2003: The RSPB/English Nature Defra-funded national cirl bunting survey recorded a population of 697 pairs.
- 2004: Cirl bunting reintroduction trials started.
- 2005: The Countryside Stewardship Scheme was replaced by Environmental Stewardship.
- 2006: The cirl bunting reintroduction programme began.
- 2007: The first breeding cirl buntings in Cornwall for over a decade were confirmed.
- 2008: The RSPB bought land in Labrador Bay in Devon to make the UK's only cirl bunting nature reserve.
- 2009: The National Cirl Bunting Survey (RSPB/Natural England) recorded 862 territories with some range expansion.
- 2011: The last cirl bunting chicks were released into Cornwall as part of the reintroduction project.
- 2014: After 10 years of habitat management, it was confirmed that cirl buntings were breeding at RSPB Powderham Marshes in Devon.
- 2015: There were more than 50 breeding pairs in Cornwall.
Guidance notes about developments, October 2017. PDF, 3.4Mb.Wildlife and development guidance note: Cirl Bunting
Latest news about cirl bunting projects Date: 6 March 2014. PDF, 917Kb.Cirl bunting bulletin - Winter 2013
Latest news about cirl bunting projects Date: 28 November 2012. PDF, 834Kb.Cirl bunting bulletin - Autumn 2012
Latest news about cirl bunting projects Date: 30 August 2011. PDF, 1.07Mb.Cirl bunting bulletin - Summer 2011
Latest news about cirl bunting projects Date: 28 June 2010. PDF, 549Kb.Cirl bunting bulletin - Summer 2010
What cirl buntings need and how they can be encouraged to your farmland. Date: 18 March 2010. PDF, 763Kb.Cirl bunting advisory sheet (England)