The Monday Bird of the Week No.7 – Yellowhammer

Growing up there was a bird we used to see, and hear, all the time. The song “little-bit-of-bread-and-noooo-cheeeese” was the familiar refrain, and it meant Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) were nearby.

Yellowhammers near York

Yellowhammers near York

It’s often seen as a ‘sound of Spring’, but it’s a song you can hear all year round. The pictures here were taken last winter, and in the winter sun the males were still happy to sing away.

Some say the “little-bit-of…” is a work of great imagination, but it’s all I hear when a yellowhammer sings.

Male Yellowhammer, York

Male Yellowhammer, York

It’s another bird that puts the lie to the idea that British birds are dull. When the sun hits the males, even the females, they are bright canary-yellow, and an umistakable bird.

Most of the buntings you’ll generally see in this country are quite brown (although ‘brown’ doesn’t mean ‘dull and boring’), so it’s a distinctive inhabitant of the British countryside. The name, incidentally, just means “Yellow Bunting” as ‘hammer’ derives from the Germanic ‘ammer’, which means ‘a bunting’

Sadly, as a farmland bird, it is in decline these days. The size of the British population has dropped more than 50% since the mid 1980s. Changing farm practices have removed much of its breeding habitat. It’s a decline that probably cannot be reversed, only stabilised.

A worthy BotW though.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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