SINGING BIRD PRINT
Corn Bunting – Play the Soundtrack Recorded by Seán Ronayne – Irish Wildlife Sounds
The song of the Corn Bunting, like many others in its family, is not the most complicated or melodic. The simple buzzing phrase, often likened to the jangling of keys, is repeated tirelessly from a prominent perch and was once the soundtrack of summer in Ireland. Changes in farming practices sadly led to its extinction towards the end of the 1980s.
Perhaps the saddest part of the story in the disappearance of Corn Buntings in Ireland is how little its demise was noticed. Formerly found in every county, a combination of reduced arable farming, earlier harvesting and more efficient collection of grain left little for this chunky seed-eater. Increases in pesticide use further hammered the flagging population which relies on insects to feed their young. Occasional wanderers do still turn up, but with populations suffering across most of its range it is likely that these explorers too will cease to arrive.
With increased awareness of the requirements, and more focus on the protection of other farmland birds it could be possible to plan for the return of Corn Buntings. With a sympathetic approach to farming, a return to a less intensive, less chemically dependant practices, we could once again hear the jingling song echoing around our countryside.
Photo of a perched male
A chunky beak, perfect for a diet of seeds and grain
A beady eye stands out in a plain face
Non-descript plumage, streaked on sandy colour
A large Bunting, averaging around 18 cm
Bright orange/pink legs,
often dangling in short flights
Very plain in flight, no obvious white in wings or tail
Long-tailed and large size obvious in flight
Adult Corn Buntings are quite cold with sandy-grey coloured, lightly streaked plumage. Juveniles are brighter and more boldly marked, but they moult quickly and soon look just like adults.
Singing birds pose very upright, head back and chest out.
Usually sings in open areas from exposed perches.
Prominent song posts are chosen and regularly used as males proclaim ownership of a territory. Competing males pause between phrases to listen to their neighbours response.
At least 2 males were heard singing near Annagh marsh in 1991.
Occasional singing birds were recorded along the east coast in 1991 and 1992.
Occasional reports near Kilmore Quay in Wexford in the early 1990’s.
Corn Buntings were found commonly in almost every county in Ireland historically. From the beginning of the twentieth century their numbers declined rapidly to the point of extinction.