Circus cyaneus

Range & Status

Holarctic; in Britain and Ireland 570 breeding pairs; 750 in winter (chiefly Scotland and eastern England).

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: 10 - 25 birds recorded in most recent winters (up to 2% of the British and Irish winter population), having increased through the 1970s (mirrored by a steady increase in Scottish breeding birds). A pair bred for the first time in 2002 (at a location in the south of VC1): four young hatched with three fledging successfully. Five regular wintering areas have become established: the West Penwith Moors, the Lizard Downs, the Mid Cornwall Moors, Bodmin Moor and the extreme north-east about Kilkhampton on the Devon border (Conway, 1992). Elsewhere in Cornwall it remains a scarce migrant. Isles of Scilly: a scarce passage migrant.

Habitat & Ecology

Occurs on moorland, heathland and rough grassland. Wanders over extensive tracts of open country during daytime but towards dusk forms communal roosts of 38 birds. Six regular roost sites have been located in Cornwall.


Disturbance, or destruction, of communal roosts (a former Bodmin Moor roost was flooded by the creation of Colliford Reservoir).


Protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Annexe 1 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).