Yellowhammer Profile

The pretty yellowhammer (Emberiza citronella) is a type of bunting which is 16cm in length. The male yellowhammer is a stunning bird with its bright yellow head and underparts, orangey chest and streaky brown upper parts. Females are less bright and have more streaks on their crowns, breasts and flanks.

These birds can be spotted in hedgerows, but they are becoming increasingly rare in the UK. Their distinctive song is often described as sounding like “a little bit of bread and no cheeeeeese”.

What is the yellowhammer’s distribution and population?

Yellowhammers can be seen across the UK and live here all year round. These birds are more prevalent in the south and are absent from most upland areas. They live in open countryside where there are bushes and hedgerows.

Sadly, the UK yellowhammer population fell by 54% between 1970 and 1998. The cause of the dramatic decline is thought to have been low survival rates over the winter due to inadequate food sources on farmland. The yellowhammer is a red-listed species of high conservation concern. There are now just 700,000 breeding pairs in the UK.

What do yellowhammers eat?

These sparrow-sizes birds feed on seeds and invertebrates. In winter, they join mixed flocks of finches, sparrows and buntings to feed on seeds foraged on farmland. Yellowhammers don’t generally visit gardens but could be attracted to gardens close to farmland if oil rich seeds such as sunflower seeds are offered.

Where do yellowhammers nest?

Yellowhammers usually choose to build their nests close to the ground and hidden in bushes or grass. The cup–shaped nests are made by the females from leaves, dry grass and stalks. They are then lined with moss and hair. These birds produce clutches of 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge after 11-13 days.

Did you know?

Hammer is a corruption of the German word ammer which means bunting.
The Yellowhammer’s song, which is comprised of a series of short notes that gradually increase over time, influenced Beethoven when he wrote his 5th Symphony.

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