Cirl Bunting Project Update

Cirl buntings are breeding again in Cornwall thanks to the RSPB’s cirl bunting reintroduction project in partnership with Paignton Zoo, Natural England and the National Trust. Cirl buntings are small farmland birds that used to be found throughout the county, and right across England’s south coast, but now they are restricted to a narrow strip of coastal farmland in south Devon. Despite a revival in numbers over the last 15 years, this population is still vulnerable, so it was decided to establish another population within its’ former range.


Last summer saw the first releases at a ‘secret’ site in south Cornwall. Young chicks were taken from Devon nests under licence from Natural England, then transported to the site and reared by aviculturalists from Paignton Zoo. When the chicks were old enough, they were moved outside to aviaries, and released into the wild a week later. By the end of August last year 72 cirl buntings had been released. They were all ringed with a unique colour combination so each bird could be identified. During March, pairs began to form territories and showed signs of breeding activity, with the first chicks hatching out in June.

Though this represents a great success for the species, more birds will be needed for the population to be able to sustain itself. More young birds have been brought down from Devon and released this year, and will be for the following two years, and we are working with local farmers, landowners and Natural England to provide suitable habitat for cirl buntings under the government’s Environmental Stewardship schemes. 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 Field Officer

* In the RSPB volunteers are a major resource and make a vital contribution to the RSPB’s aim 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. For more information please contact Nick Tomalin – details above.

Cirl Bunting photos by Cornwall Birding Images 2007

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