A cirl bunting
Cirl Buntings: a unique Devon bird
Some of the UK's rarest species of wildlife are featured in the final episode of the BBC TV series Nature of Britain. If you want to spot a cirl bunting, then you'll have to visit South Devon - the bird's last remaining stronghold in England.
The cirl bunting is one of Britain's most attractive birds - but there's only one place where you can spot the once thriving species, and that's right here in Devon.
The bird, a relative of the more familiar yellowhammer, was quite common across southern England in the early 1900s.
But the species is now confined to South Devon. However, even here, the cirl bunting was in danger of being wiped out.
During the 1980s, the numbers slumped to 118 pairs. The alarming decline prompted English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to launch a scheme to save the species.
The cirl bunting needs help
The project - which also involved the farming ministry Defra - encouraged landowners to manage their land in a cirl bunting friendly way.
This followed research which showed the decline was down to loss of habitat and changes in farming methods.
As a result, there was a lack of summer food (insects) and winter food (seeds), and a shortage of nesting sites such as farmland hedges and scrub.
But within 15 years of the recovery programme being launched in South Devon in 1989, cirl bunting numbers had increased from 118 pairs to 700 pairs.
Cath Jeffs, the RSPB's Exeter-based cirl bunting project officer, said: "The countryside stewardship provided the funding for farmers to restore lost features, including weedy winter stubbles, to the landscapes of South Devon and save the bird."
While there is no room for complacency, the revival of the cirl bunting has been a real success story. The task now for conservation groups is to ensure the recovery continues.
last updated: 22/02/2008 at 10:48