Skylark and Corn Bunting bouncing back in England


The latest Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report offers hope for two iconic farmland species, Eurasian Skylark and Corn Bunting.

However, the report, produced by the BTO and RSPB, also reveals continued declines for other species typically associated with farmland in Britain, including Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and European Turtle Dove.

Corn Bunting has increased by 35% in England during the past decade (John Howell).

Eurasian Skylark has endured a severe long-term decline across Britain. However, according to the latest report, numbers have increased by 9% during the past decade and, encouragingly, nearly 20% in the last five years in south-east England and the East Midlands. These figures buck the long-term trend, although the recent increases in England and Scotland are not mirrored in Wales, where there has been a 23% decline since 2016.

In England, the outlook looks even more promising for Corn Bunting, a species that has seen its UK population crash by 82% since the late 1960s and which has disappeared from many parts of the country. Numbers in England have increased by 35% over the past decade, the report reveals, with this partial recovery particularly evident in the South-West.

Dr James Heywood, BBS National Organiser, said: "These positive signs for two iconic farmland species is really encouraging. We await the results of ongoing analyses to establish whether they are indeed linked to changes in farming practices. These signs of hope must not distract us from the fact that many farmland species are still in decline. There is much work to be done."

Dr Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Science, added: "While the news of Eurasian Skylark and Corn Bunting short-term recovery is positive, it’s disheartening to see that other farmland birds are still declining. We know that agri-environment schemes can work if deployed in the right way and it is essential that we have a functioning Environment Land Management scheme that supports farmers managing their land for nature and climate."

Read the full report at the BTO website.