Breeding status
First Record
Last Recorded

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

Cirl Bunting photographed at Pleinmont [PLE] on 28/4/2008. Photo: © Phil Alexander
  Cirl Bunting photographed at Pleinmont [PLE] on 28/4/2008 Photo: © Phil Alexander (visit site)

The Cirl Bunting's breeding distribution covers the south-western Palearctic extending from Brittany, south-west to Spain and north Africa and eastwards to NW Turkey. The Channel Islands are on the northern edge of its breeding range. Despite having been a regular breeding species in Jersey until recent years, Cirl Buntings have been proved to breed in the Bailiwick only once and have always been a rare passage migrant and winter visitor. The breeding record comes from a series of records in the 1970s which led to one pair successfully breeding on Sark.

The first Bailiwick record is documented by Smith and is of one or two birds seen in Sark by Blaythwaite in March 1898. This was followed by another bird at the end of May 1903. Other records confirm its scarcity. In Alderney, Thompson killed one bird on December 24 1913 and saw a flock of 12 on April 20, 1914, and several more or the same birds on subsequent days. He saw two more on on January 21, 1919. In Sark, Dobson records a few birds seen by by Tucker from July 14 in the summer of 1923 and remarks that it is doubtful that these birds were bred locally and that they were migrants from the continent, although this now seems an early date for a migrant bird. The first Guernsey record is of two birds caught in a glasshouse in St Martins in early January 1930. They were kept in a cage for two weeks after which they both died.

Since Dobson's publication the Cirl Bunting remained a scarce visitor. In 1950, a small flock of birds were recorded at Pleinmont in a mixed flock of Yellowhammers and Linnets on 7 April and a bird was seen in Alderney near the St Anne's War Memorial on 12 April. Six years later, two males were seen at Grande Havre on 28 January 1956 and was believed to be the second record for the island but was, in fact, the third. In 1961, a male was seen at Vazon on 1 April and in 1964 a male was seen on Herm on 7 April and in Alderney at Val de Fontaine on 24 April. In 1966, breeding was suspected at Delancey Monument. Burridge wrote in the Transactions 'A lone male was seen in the vicinity of the Delancey Monument, St Sampson on July 27th and 28th; there appeared to be some evidence that it was holding territory but no nest was located nor was a mate seen at any time.' It seems that, during the 1960s, Cirl Buntings changed from being an extreme rarity to an irregular migrant that may have bred.

Since 1960, Cirl Buntings have been a rare winter visitor and vagrant apart from an influx in the late 1970s when one pair bred in Sark. Apart from a series of wintering records in the late 1970s there have been only 5 records from 1980-2000. The series of records from the late 1970s started with a spring record of a bird at the Dell Nursery in May 1976 (7th Guernsey record). In the autumn of 1976, four males and 2 females were seen at the Casquets Lighthouse on 14 November, and on the same day 1 male and 2 females were seen at Les Fontenelles in Guernsey. The wintering flock of 7 birds was concentrated in the vicinity of Delancey Park and were first were seen on 23 November. All 7 birds remained until the end of January 1977, when three birds disappeared and four remained until 14 February.

The next year, 1977, saw an impressive series of records. Over the first winter period records of birds came from five sites. In January, 10+ were seen at Le Petit Hurel on the 3rd, 9th and 16th, 2 were ringed at Les Landes, St Peters on the 3rd , 1 was seen at Beau Sejour on 28 January and 2 were seen north of the Reservoir on 31st. In February, pairs were seen at the Reservoir on 6th and at Bon Porte on 5th. Only one bird was seen in summer and the record of a sinigng bird at the Vaux de Monel on 12 May suggests that some of these immigrants may have attempted to breed. This, or another bird remained at the Vaux de Monel throughout the summer and winter and was seen on 22 October 1977 and also the following May (17th). In Sark, a pair bred and were seen on 12, 13 & 19 August, They were successful and a male was seen feeding a juvenile on the second of these dates. This is the only confirmed breeding Bailiwick breeding record.

In 1978, the two birds were seen at Jerbourg on 27 August, and again a bird was present at the Vaux de Monel on on 15 April and at Pleinmont on 10 June. The records from Pleinmont were all of single males and may well refer to the same bird. This remarkable series of records ended with 2 birds being seen at Vazon on 4 November 1978. The pattern of sightings suggest a major influx of birds to Guernsey in November 1976, some of which remained the following summer and winter. However, none were proved to breed, and the influx was not sufficient to establish a popuplation. Since this influx there have been only been five records to 2000 (CHECK), one at Pleinmont on 2 September 1982, one at the Vaux de Monel on 1 April 1988 and one feeding in a garden along the Pleinmont road between 5-8 April 1994, one at Corbière on 28 February 1997 and one at Les Sommeilleuses on 31 May 1998.

This pattern of records shows the Cirl Bunting to be typically a spring migrant with most records occurring during April and May. The irruption in the winter of 1976/77 was exceptional and has not been repeated. Birds were seen at scattered localities and so the influx must have been widespread.

View all photos (1)
Cirl Bunting photographed at Pleinmont [PLE] on 28/4/2008. Photo: © Phil Alexander
Cirl Bunting photographed at Pleinmont [PLE] on 28/4/2008. Photo: © Phil Alexander (visit site)

View database records (11)
Cirl Bunting Pleinmont 5/4/1994 8/4/1994 1
Cirl Bunting Corbiere 28/2/1997 1
Cirl Bunting Sommeilleuses 31/5/1998 1
Cirl Bunting Herm 13/11/2005 1
Cirl Bunting [ALD] 28/3/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Essex Farm 9/4/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Longis Common - ABO Daily Census 10/4/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Longis Common - ABO Daily Census 11/4/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Longis Common - ABO Daily Census 13/4/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Tourgis Hill [ALD] 28/4/2018 1
Cirl Bunting Tourgis Hill [ALD] 28/4/2018 1