Cornwall corn bunting project

Corn buntings are a national conservation priority. Action was essential to retain corn buntings in Cornwall and a project started in July 2001.

Corn Bunting Recovery Project, Cornwall


Corn buntings are a national conservation priority. Corn buntings are now very rare in Cornwall – lost from the Lizard and Land’s End peninsulas in the 1980s and 1990s, their range is restricted to a northern coastal area between Newquay and Pentire with only 50 singing males recorded in 2002. The nearest corn buntings are north of a line between Bristol and Weymouth.
Action was essential to retain corn buntings in Cornwall and a project started in July 2001. Using agri-environment schemes, farmers are encouraged to provide crops for winter food, safe nesting areas and reduce sprays to ensure a plentiful supply of insects for corn bunting chicks. By 2003, most of the farms with corn buntings were signed up to provide management through stewardship schemes. By 2008, this seems to have worked with the population now stable and possibly even increasing slightly.
Corn buntings are ground nesting and need a mosaic of habitats to provide different nesting options in different years in response to weather conditions affecting crop growth. Both cereal and grass fields are used by corn buntings and they will also nest in low gorse bushes along the coastal strip if these areas are not disturbed.


  • Survey and locate territories of the remaining corn buntings in Cornwall
  • Understand nesting habits of corn buntings in Cornwall
  • Stabilise and increase numbers through targeted habitat management
  • Promote corn buntings as a target for agri-environment schemes
  • Offer support, advice and encouragement to farmers to manage grass and arable fields for corn buntings to provide safe nesting areas and summer and winter food sources
  • Work with local people to encourage awareness of what corn buntings need and how to protect them

Key Dates

  • 2001: Project started
  • 2002: Corn bunting survey
  • 2003: Main farms where corn buntings found on survey signed up to Countryside Stewardship agreements
  • 2006-2009: Research into nesting habits will help further understand the year round needs of corn buntings in Cornwall


Planned Work

Ongoing advisory work provides farmers with up-to-date information on where their corn buntings are nesting and field-by-field management advice according to crop type.
We will continue to work with Natural England to ensure corn buntings are a target for Higher Level Stewardship and options and prescriptions are appropriate for Cornwall’s birds.
It is hoped that landowners will apply for new agri-environment schemes and continue their good management of the last few years enabling these vulnerable birds to recover in Cornwall.


  • Key corn bunting farms between Newquay and Pentire now have specific arable fields managed for corn buntings
  • Number of singing males has increased slightly from 50 in 2002 to 58 in 2008
  • Confirmed breeding attempts increased from 51 in 2006 to 74 in 2008



The Cornwall Corn Bunting Project is part of Action for Birds in England, a conservation partnership between the RSPB and Natural England.


Coast on a stormy day

Paul St Pierre

Conservation Officer, RSPB
01736 362979
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Heathland Species: Corn bunting Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education Project types: Species protection