Status: Declining resident mainly in the east and south of Ireland. Strongly tied to cereal cultivation.
Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland due to a decline in the breeding range and population. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: A typical bunting in size and shape (slightly larger than Chaffinch).
Adult summer males are a stunning yellow colour on the head and underparts, appearing unlike any other Irish breeding bird species. Has an indistinct reddish-brown breast band and some faint black streaking along the flanks. The back and wings are brown with extensive black streaking. The rump is reddish-brown.
Adult winter male Yellowhammers are much darker, with extensive black markings on the head and obvious black streaking on the breast. The head and underparts have an obvious yellow tint to them.
Adult females resemble winter males, but have much less yellow on the head and underparts.
Juveniles have a dark grey-brown head with an obvious white eyering.
Similar Species: Other Bunting species.
Call: Has several rather faint calls, which resemble those of Reed Bunting - "ziu", "plit", "pschiu". Males sing from an exposed perch in the top of a tree or hedgerow from spring to late summer. The song is a frequently repeated "sri-sri-sri-sri-sri-zu", initially increasing in pitch, before descending on the last note.
Diet: Feeds on grains of grasses and cereals. Young are fed insects.
Breeding: Formerly a widespread breeding species in Ireland, now restricted mainly to the east and south. Strongly linked with the cultivation of cereals and has declined in areas where these are no longer grown.
Wintering: Largely resident, though flocks may form in favoured feeding areas, such as winter stubble fields.
Where to See: Widespread along the east coast of Ireland. The fields between Balbriggan and Laytown in north County Dublin hold good numbers of Yellowhammers, especially in winter.
Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey and BirdTrack.