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.

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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 (Trigueirão 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's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends & the cat!

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!

  2. 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. 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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