Record-breaking year for cirl bunting reintroduction project

Published: 21 November 2014

Record-breaking year for cirl bunting reintroduction project

A project to bring the rare cirl bunting back to Cornwall is celebrating its best year to date. And Trust staff are playing a crucial role.

Cornwall’s re-introduced population of cirl buntings has this year seen its best ever breeding productivity, with 39 pairs producing over 100 fledglings at the Roseland site. With the population showing every sign of becoming established, this novel project to reintroduce a passerine in Europe has so far been a great success.

Cath Jeffs, RSPB Cirl Bunting Project Manager welcomed the news; “These are encouraging signs that the population is on its way to becoming self-sustaining, and as the first passerine[i] reintroduction to take place in Europe, the project can be considered a huge success.”

Since the first hand-reared birds were released in 2006, cirl bunting numbers have been steadily increasing in Cornwall, as has their range, with new breeding territories discovered each year. The last birds were released in 2011, and in 2012 the population was 44 pairs. Following a wet summer in that year and a reduction in numbers to 28 pairs in 2013, the population has subsequently increased again. The chicks were hand-reared by staff from Paignton Zoo, part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust..

Next year it is predicted that the population will exceed the milestone of 50 pairs. By 2016 it is unlikely that there will be any remaining colour-ringed birds, meaning the population will be 100% Cornish. It's thought that the key to the future of this project is ensuring that the right habitat is provided through the delivery of agri-environment schemes.

Jo Gregson, Curator of Birds at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park said; "It is always rewarding to use our avicultural skills and expertise to boost numbers of wild birds. As a South West conservation charity, it is all the more special when the project is working with a native species locally. This project shows the important role top zoos play in conservation. The aviculture work carried out by Paignton Zoo Environmental Park improves our understanding of in-situ issues and can give projects a clear head start."

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