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What is a Yellowhammer?

The yellowhammer is a bird. The male is a highly visible member of the bunting family both in terms of its vivid yellow plumage and its habit of singing and calling from prominent perches, often along hedgerows. Its song is said to resemble the phrase ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ with 5-8 short notes and the last being longer and slightly higher than the others. The female’s plumage tends to be more subdued and the male can also lose it’s bold yellow colouring in the winter months.

Why is the Yellowhammer important to the Surrey Hills?

Its recent population decline make it a Red List species.

What habitat does the Yellowhammer like?


Arable is currently is one of the most intensively managed land uses and covers a multitude of crops from the most basic commodity products such as wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet and potatoes to more specialist crops such as linseed and asparagus. Some crops are annual while others, particularly salad crops, can yield two or three crops each year on the same piece of land.

What can be done to benefit the Yellowhammer?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for the yellowhammer would include:
  • well-managed hedgerows that are dense from top-to-bottom and generally not more than 2m high
  • grass margins alongside hedgerows to provide a good source of insects and added cover when nesting
  • conservation headlands where the outside 6m of a cereal crop is not treated with any herbicides or insecticides
  • provision of good seed sources such as weedy stubbles during the winter
  • creating areas of wild bird mix including cereals for winter food
  • on all-grass farms, unsprayed and uncut margins can be left adjacent to hedgerows


Creating and managing areas for the Yellowhammer will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.

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