Cirl bunting reintroduction
We had previously been successful in increasing the number of cirl buntings in the UK, but we wanted to do more.
- To establish a new self-sustaining breeding population of cirl buntings geographically separate from the Devon population
- In 2004, The RSPB (working closely with the other partner organisations) trialled 'Rear and Release' as a reintroduction technique. This involved removing chicks from nests in Devon, hand-rearing them, then releasing the fledged young back into the Devon site.
- The following year (2005), we confirmed that birds reared and released could survive the winter and join the wild breeding population in the following spring. This success led to us adopting 'Rear and Release' as a viable technique for re-establishing cirl buntings.
- The full-scale reintroduction in Cornwall began in 2006.
- Between 2006 and 2011, a minimum target number of 60 birds were released annually. All birds were colour ringed so they could be identified in the field.
- From 2007 to 2015, the population in Cornwall was intensively monitored.
- Since 2007, the RSPB farmland bird advisor has been employed to liaise with landowners and secure further suitable habitat to allow for the wider natural spread of released birds.
2007: We confirmed the first breeding cirl buntings in Cornwall for around 15 years.
2008: We recorded birds moving further afield and saw unringed birds (those born in Cornwall are not colour-ringed) interacting with the reintroduced population.
2009: We had higher chick productivity than in previous years, making it similar to that we had seen in the Devon population.
2010: The breeding population increased again, with 16 pairs recorded making nesting attempts and rearing at least 39 young.
2011. The population rose steeply by 75%. The 28 pairs raised a total of at least 69 young. For the first time since the project began, the population in Cornwall consisted mostly of wild-bred birds.
2012: A milestone year, with the project target of 40 pairs reached. Across the monitoring area, 44 pairs were found. Unfortunately the wettest summer for a century severely suppressed productivity, with just 65 fledged young being recorded.
2013: A decline in the breeding population due to bad weather in 2012 and no birds having been released in the previous year.
2014: A welcome increase in the population.
2015: A population of over 50 pairs, a number considered self-sustaining.