Shy but perky

The Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) is not a bird that will cause many walkers or even nature lovers to stop in their tracks, but we can never resist stopping to observe and photograph. Partly because it perches so photogenically, but mostly because this is a bird that has almost disappeared from English landscapes thanks to our modern day industrial style approach to farming.


The steep decline was in the 1970s/1980s, with some areas seeing local extinctions. The decline has slowed in recent years, but it still continues and consequently this is bird rarely seen in England. Scotland is doing a little bit better, and the decline is slowly being reversed in some areas but overall the UK population has decreased by more than 50% since the 1970s. Corn Buntings (Trigueirรฃo in Portuguese) are though still common here in Portugal, and also Spain. As Matt Merritt, a bird-watching expert recently wrote to see them so regularly and in such large numbers is wonderful, and also ‘evidence of a landscape that still has room for the marginal, specialist species that are fast disappearing elsewhere.’

One of the collective nouns for Corn Buntings is a decoration, and I thought that perfect for these group shots. Another fact I was delighted to discover is that in the UK the Corn Bunting is so sedentary (ie not migratory) that males who are just 30km apart sing with different ‘dialects’. I wonder if that is also true in Portugal? Not sure I can tell from these two Portuguese recordings on the superb Xeno-Canto website!

What do you think? I have sent a note to the recordist Peter Boesman to see if he has noticed Corn Bunting dialects, and will keep you posted on his response.

Gathering of Corn Buntings

PS My title is inspired by “A Trace of Wings” from Edwin Morgan’s Themes on a Variation (1988) and Collected Poems.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

24 thoughts

  1. Any bird stops me in my tracks. Especially if it is one I’ve never seen before and trying to identify. Stop and take the picture…get the bird book out…identify…simple…NOT. The coloring of this one is like a sparrow, but has the beak of a bunting or grosbeak. Awesome!

    1. We love Corn Buntings . . . . . a rare sight in the UK these days, but fortunately still common in the Algarve ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. First time we have seen this number, quite extraordinary to observe. Kept us spellbound for quite a while ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I didn’t know birds of the same species sang in different “dialects”. I must take more notice of our own local birds and see if there is a difference. Lovely photo of your little bird.

  3. Aren’t they fabulous? Now I am wondering what the little brown birds are that come into my garden. I thought they were house or tree sparrows, but they do look a lot like these fellas. Some of the LBBs are difficult to tell apart.

    1. Ooh that be amazing if they are. So envious. A good tell is that these LBBs love to perch on top of trees, unlike most of the others which prefer to lurk in the tree!

      1. They do love to perch on the top of the hedgerow and there are a lot of them. When I am home again I will try and get some photos.

        1. oh wow, didn’t realise they were not in your neck of the woods. Did you know there are different types of Sparrow in Europe?!

        2. Yup! Think the others are called Spanish Sparrows, and then there are House Sparrows and Hedge Sparrows . . . . .and probably more I’ve forgotten!

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