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North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
1 Current status
The UK population of Corn Bunting declined by 90% between 1970 and 2005. The most recent national survey gave a population estimate of 16-23,000 territorial males in 1993. This is likely to be significantly lower now, as the Breeding Bird Survey recorded a continuing decline of 32% between 1994-2005. Concurrent with the population decline has been a large contraction in the species’ range, with population collapses over much of central and SW England and Scotland. The highest densities in the UK are found on flat, open arable land and chalk downland. The Corn Bunting is a Priority Species in the UK BAP, due to its rapid population decline.
The magnitude of the local population decline is not known. Certainly, a decline is indicated from the changes in the peak counts of wintering flocks. The North Merseyside population was estimated at 200 pairs in 1997-99.
The species remains widespread on farmland in the area, but in variable densities. Small populations are found on the edge of the conurbation at Speke, Croxteth, Aintree and Netherton. The highest population densities, reaching a maximum of 4-5 pairs per square kilometre, occur on arable farmland in Sefton, Knowsley and St. Helens. This is the southern part of a fairly continuous area of approximately 200 square kilometres of mosslands, most of it outside Merseyside, which holds the largest population of Corn Buntings in North West England, estimated in 1997-99 to total 1200 pairs, 5% to 7.5% of the UK population. The distribution of birds within this area is typically patchy.
The highest densities, around Altcar Withins and Little
Crosby, are similar to the highest densities so far recorded in North West Europe. Most of the UK population makes only local movements of a few kilometres between breeding and wintering areas. Therefore, wintering distributions are likely to be similar to breeding distributions on a coarse scale in North Merseyside. There are local re-distributions, for example of birds onto the dunes at Crosby in winter, where there is no breeding population.