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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Corn Bunting

Hebrides bird sightings - Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Miliaria calandra

Gaelic: Gealag-bhuachair


Photograph © Steve Round
North Uist - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
17th May 2005


  • Corn Bunting
  • Miliaria calandra
  • Gaelic: Gealag-bhuachair
  • UK: RED LIST. 10,000 territories (Summer) BTO
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • WI: Fairly common resident breeder (100-999 breeding pairs) Uists only. 245 - 320 territories (1995 RSPB survey)
  • Breeds: Nest made of grass, usually on ground. Lays 3-6 eggs. Open country, usually with trees (farmland, scrub, grassland). Europe, North Africa, Asia to Kazahkstan. Most birds resident, but some from colder parts of Europe & Asia migrate south
  • Diet: Seeds - mostly in arable fields (winter stubble, root crops, weedy wasteland). Also insects in breeding season
  • Largest of the buntings (16-19cm length). Stout & dumpy brown bird. Streaked grey-brown above. Whitish below. Typically seen perched (bushes, wires, posts) singing. Fluttering flight with dangling legs. Plumage of sexes similar. Social bird often seen in loose flocks.
  • Max recorded age 9yrs 1mth
  • Listen to a Corn Bunting (RSPB site) . Male song repetitive metallic sound, like jangling keys
  • Similar birds: Skylark, Yellowhammer (rare here)


Corn Bunting records in the Western Isles

Fairly common resident breeder (100-999 breeding pairs) Uists only
245 - 320 territories (1995 RSPB survey)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Corn Bunting is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



"Corn bunting poulations dropped 86 per cent in the UK between 1967 and 2003.

New studies show that all populations have continued to fall, except on the Western Isles where numbers increased by over 20 per cent from 111 to 134 territorial males between 2006 and 2007.

This is believed to be a result of the 2004 Uist and Barra Arable Stack Scheme, which pays crofters to stack some of their grain crop (instead of storing it in plastic bales), providing a valuable winter food source for the bunting.

Telegraph online article 6th March, 2008

RSPB research in the Western Isles over a 2 - 3 year period has shown the birds are declining in the Western Isles. There was a decline of 65% of the singing males recorded in 1995 to only 117 recorded in 2005.

I wrote previously that Corn Buntings in the Western Isles, prefering tilled ground, are mainly in the Uists and Benbecula, with some in Lewis in Ness, and Northton in Harris.
Martin from Western Isles RSPB has since told me that they are now only in the Uists and Barra in the Western Isles, and have been extinct on Lewis and Harris for nearly 30 years ...




Steve Round has a web site of his stunning photography, visit it to see other pictures of the Corn Bunting at a higher resolution.

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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