British wildlife recordings

Emberiza calandra : Corn Bunting - Emberizidae

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  • Shelf mark

    W1CDR0001398 BD7

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  • Recording locations

    OS Grid Reference(634771,318079)

  • Recordist

    Shove, Lawrence

  • Species

    Corn Bunting, Emberiza calandra

  • Description

    The song of the male corn bunting, recorded in farmland in Norfolk. About the same size as a skylark, the corn bunting is actually our largest bunting. It could be best described as an inconspicuous but heavily streaked dull-coloured bird that prefers the open countryside found on lowland farms. However, its dull looks belie a rather interesting sex life. Most males have more than one mate and up to as many as six have been recorded. The male maintains the females in his territory with a song that consists of a rushed jangle of discordant notes, which closely resembles the shaking of a bunch of keys. Males sing from prominent perches such as bushes or fence posts and those with several mates sing more often than males with just a single mate. During winter, they form small foraging flocks comprising usually less than ten birds. Corn buntings have caused much concern as numbers of this species have declined rapidly during the 20th century. The corn buntings' remaining strongholds are in eastern England and Scotland and they are rarely encountered in Wales and Ireland. These declines are linked to agricultural changes such as the loss of stubble fields and earlier harvesting, and there are currently thought to be only 19,800 pairs in Britain.

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