Range & Status
Palearctic; in Britain and Ireland formerly widespread, decreased during early part of this century, but stabilised through 2nd world war and up until 1970s; further dramatic decrease began 1974, with population 70% down by 1993 (now some 18,000 territorial birds), dropping to between 8500 and 12,200 territories by 2000. Similar decreases reported in most of western Europe.
Cornwall: formerly common and widespread, but older data inadequate. Certainly declining in 1930s and 1940s, but then stable and locally abundant up to 1980 along north coast and from The Lizard westwards. Had gone from The Lizard and virtually so from West Penwith by late 1980s. By 1993 almost confined to coast between Portreath and the Rumps, with some 50 males on territory. Will almost certainly become extinct in Cornwall around the turn of the next century. Isles of Scilly: formerly considered as not uncommon, but had decreased to point of extinction by 1939, now only a vagrant.
Habitat & Ecology
Open cornfields and grasslands. Flocking to feed in stubbles in winter. Males are polygamous.
Changes in farming practices. Particularly destruction of 2nd and 3rd broods through earlier harvesting of both hay and cereal crops; change from spring to autumn sowing renders less acreage of winter stubbles which are important to the overwinter survival of the species (Donald et al. , 1994).
Research continues. As this species is now virtually gone from the whole of south-west England (including Devon), natural recolonisation of the isolated Cornish habitats is unlikely. Listed (middle list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).