Farming together with nature

Seed-eating farmland birds have experienced significant declines in Northern Ireland. For example, it is estimated that just 5,000 pairs of yellowhammer remain. This represents an alarming decline for a species which had a population of 32,512 pairs as recently as 1991.

Hawthorn, Crategus monogyna, in flower at woodland edge. Coombes Valley RSPB reserve.


In Northern Ireland, the species is largely dependent on the presence of cereal fields, making the large arable region of East County Down a stronghold. 
Between 2006 and 2011 the Yellowhammer Recovery Project worked with farmers to determine whether arable options within Northern Ireland’s agri-environment scheme worked. It also sought to find out whether targeted advice and uptake of these options would see a farm-scale recovery of yellowhammers. 
Yellowhammer numbers increased 79 per cent on farms under the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme, in which farmers were receiving the greatest levels of habitat management advice. Additionally, other seed-eating species benefited from the habitat management put in place. This increase demonstrates the importance of continuing to offer support.


  • To encourage farmers within the region to implement specific habitat management measures.
  • To provide one-to-one advice as well as group training events.
  • To promote and celebrate wildlife-friendly farming.
  • To train and recruit volunteers to undertake surveys of project farms.
  • To increase our knowledge of farmland wildlife.
  • To engage the wider community.
  • If you are a farmer in this area please contact us to get a free advisory visit.

Planned Work

  • To work with up to 25 new farmers.
  • Volunteers will carry out surveys on all of these farms. A volunteer training event will take place in March.
  • We aim to offer butterfly surveys on up to 20 of the project farms this year.
  • A conservation adviser will continue to provide advice to all farmers involved in the project.
  • To continue to carry out one farmer workshop and one demonstration event each year.
  • To expand outreach work in schools.
  • To work more closely with district councils to implement wildlife-friendly options such as wild bird cover on their land.



RSPB funded


Coast on a stormy day

Seán Woods

Conservation Advisor
028 9069 0859
Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Habitat: Farmland Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Species protection