Range & Status
Europe and west Asia; in Britain and Ireland 1500 pairs (1997); declining. Has decreased by up to 75% throughout western Europe since 1970.
Cornwall: formerly a local but widespread resident (absent west of Truro). 50-100 pairs bred in Cornwall in the mid 1960s, but a decrease had already begun by then. By 1980, it was almost confined to a few sites in the sheltered valleys of the Tamar and Lynher where last proved to have bred at St. Germans in 1983; the last singing bird near Cotehele in 1987. A few birds continue to be located in winter stubbles, often well away from traditional areas (over 30 birds were recorded in extreme west Cornwall during October 1993 followed by 18 near St. Ives through that winter). A flock of 20-30 at Maker for three consecutive winters since 1992/93 is likely to have originated from nearby Devon where a small population survives along the southern fringes of Dartmoor. Isles of Scilly: rare migrant, chiefly in autumn. October 1993 produced unprecedented numbers, as it did in west Cornwall. A wintering flock of 12 birds in 2008/9 near Penzance is unusual.
Habitat & Ecology
Although generally associated with heathland, the Cornish and Devon populations inhabit unimproved pastures with scattered trees in sheltered valleys. In winter, it forms small parties in stubbles and weedy fields.
Deterioration and loss of habitat through intensification of forestry and farming practices.
Young forestry plantations could be managed in favour of the species, and the promotion of low intensity pastoral farming could be encouraged. 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).