Yellowhammer – 2003-07 breeding

Emberiza citrinella – MELYN YR EITHIN – Breeding resident

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed10715
Breeding probable222142
Breeding possible5431
No of tetrads occupied383 (of 478)188 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads80.1%38.4%

Historically common and widespread in the county, it was still well-distributed during the 1984-88 survey, being detected in 82% of the tetrads. In the absence of comprehensive census data, three small sample areas were surveyed during 1989 and singing males recorded. On this basis extrapolation arrived at a county total of 14,000 – 15,000 territories.  However, using data from the 1988-91 National Atlas, modified by the species’ relative abundance in Pembrokeshire, a figure of about 13,000 pairs can be derived for the county.

During this time the Yellowhammer was probably decreasing and the BBS subsequently recorded a 41% decline across Wales between 1994 and 2007. The Pembrokeshire survey of 2003-07 found there had been a 50% reduction in distribution since 1988. This suggests the population had reduced to about 7,000 pairs, if no allowance is made for any decrease in density. However, field-workers found Yellowhammers to be sparsely distributed in the tetrads where they were found and an assessment suggested an average density of four pairs per tetrad was realistic. This would generate a county estimate of about 800 pairs breeding. However, in at least 10 tetrads which were visited frequently throughout the 2003-07 survey, birds located in 2003 and 2004 could not be found during 2005–2007. It therefore seems likely that the breeding population in Pembrokeshire at the end of 2007 had decreased to below 800 pairs and may be disappearing at an increasing rate.

This map shows the 1984-88 distribution in orange, with the 2003-07 distribution superimposed in black.

Large dots = confirmed breeding

Medium dots = probable breeding,

Small dots = breeding possible

Changes in agricultural practices, resulting in a huge reduction in winter stubbles and a general reduction of weeds, are thought to be a major factor in the Yellowhammers decline. A reduction in farm dung heaps has also probably contributed. As a consequence of significant national declines, the Yellow-hammer was red-listed by the review “Birds of Conservation Concern 3” (Eaton et al., 2009).   

More about the Yellowhammer in Pembrokeshire