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Yellowhammer  , Emberiza citrinella

The Yellowhammer is a sparrow sized member of the Bunting family of birds. The male is mostly yellow with brown upperparts that have darker streaking. The rump is chestnut brown. The cleft tail has white towards the tips of the outer tail feathers. The bill is grey and the legs pale brown. The female is duller and can be rather brown looking. Juveniles are darker and less yellow looking than females.

While not particularly shy, yellowhammers are wary and will often flush early from cover and make a long, circular flight, alighting back close to where they took off. Their flight is slightly jerky with long undulations, and will reveal white tail corners and striking, unstressed rump. Males will often sing from vantage points such as the top of bushes. Yellowhammers tend to gather in small flock outside of breeding season.

Hammer is a corruption of the German ammer, meaning bunting.

Yellowhammers are found across the UK but are least abundant in the north and west and completely absent from some upland areas. Look out for them in open countryside near bushes and hedgerows. They will also venture into gardens particularly during winter.

Yellowhammers start breeding in April and will produce broods as late as September. They are monogamous and have two or three broods a season. The cup-shaped nest of the Yellowhammer is built by the female with grass and moss, and lined with hair and grass. The nest is usually on the ground amidst hedgerows, grasses, or shrubs. The female incubates the eggs (22 mm by 15 mm), which are smooth, glossy and white with few purplish markings. The young are fed by both parents. They reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

Yellowhammers are at home on arable farms and in hedgerows where they feed on seed and grain.

In winter they often join mixed flocks of finches and buntings. Corn and seed is most likely to attract them into the garden, especially in winter and spring when natural food supplies are short. During breeding season yellowhammers will supplement their diet with invertebrates such as grasshoppers, worms, caterpillars, spiders and snails.

The breeding population of the Yellowhammer has declined by more than 50% over the last 25 years. This decline is most likely a result of modern farming practices: autumn sowing of crops and the loss of winter stubble, which is affecting many other arable farmland birds, such as skylarks , finches and buntings. Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). As with most wildlife here in the U.K. the Yellowhammer is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

©️ wildonline 2022

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