Cirl Bunting Project 2008

The joint venture between the RSPB, Natural England, Paignton Zoo and The National Trust to reintroduce cirl buntings to Cornwall has continued with another successful year of rearing and releasing young birds from Devon, as well as continued breeding by older released birds in Cornwall. In 2007 we were able to report the first confirmed breeding of cirl buntings in Cornwall for some time, with several pairs making nesting attempts and rearing young. This summer there has been even more pairs breeding despite the wet weather, including some birds that were born in Cornwall last summer. These pairs have been dispersing into new areas too, finding suitable areas of over-wintered stubble and bird cover crops during the winter, and breeding in the nearby insect-rich grasslands.

The population has also been boosted by another batch of young birds translocated from Devon. Aviculturists from Paignton Zoo have again been busy rearing the birds from 6-day old chicks until release at around 30-32 days. This is no easy task, as the birds require feeding every two hours from 6am until midnight. The process has been adapted from last year drawing on the experience of the head aviculturist, Carl Laven, and on advice from vets at the Zoological Society of London, who develop the rearing protocol. Although poor weather may mean that the chicks are more vulnerable to disease, a total of 68 have been released this year – ahead of target and with very few losses, due to the dedication of the hand-rearers.

With the winter fast approaching, monitoring of the population will continue with RSPB staff and volunteers identifying birds by their unique colour-ring combinations. The birds will begin to form flocks and spend their time feeding in seed-rich stubble fields. The local farming community have been hugely supportive of the work, with many putting in suitable wintering habitat on their farms to encourage cirl buntings. Many have been interested in the governments Environmental Stewardship Schemes, which offer payments for wildlife friendly management of the land. This support is crucial to the success of the project. With more birds due to be translocated next year, it is hoped that the population will continue to expand over the next couple of years so that cirl buntings will be a common feature of the Cornish countryside once again.

If anyone has any sightings, would like to commit to regular voluntary work (*see below), or simply wants more information, please feel free to contact me on 07702 779345 or at

Nick Tomalin

RSPB Cirl Bunting Reintroduction Project Officer

*In the RSPB volunteers are a major resource and make a vital contribution to the RSPB’s aims to take action for the conservation of wild birds and the environment. On a project like this we would need someone with good field identification skills and reasonable fitness who could commit to at least one day each fortnight, since it requires regular work to become familiar with the ring identification and the monitoring area. We also offer residential placements during winter. For more information see or contact Nick Tomalin – details above.

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