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Parakeets, Shrikes, Corvids, Vireos and Orioles

Updated: Jan 11

Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri

As one of the best-known invasive species in the UK, its origins have been the subject of much speculation, with explanations ranging from birds escaping from the set of the film ‘The African Queen’ to animals being released in London by Jimi Hendrix. It is most likely that the birds' establishment in Britain is the consequence of repeated releases and introductions, though it is undoubtedly the case that it is more common in the east of the country and is spreading westwards.

It is not clear whether records in Cornwall relate to wandering birds from established feral populations or whether they local escapes. On the Lizard, it is rare, with just four records: one seen at Penrose on 21st Mar 2016 (I Maclean), 2 at Kuggar on 3rd May 2019 and one there on 5th May 2021.

(Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus)

A few records of undoubted local escapes, including one at Mullion Cove on 15th Mar 1997.

Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus

A rare vagrants, though records of this species in both Cornwall and the UK more generally appear to be increasing. There are just two records for the Lizard: 1CY birds at Carn Goon on 26th-27th Sep 2009 (T Blunden, I Maclean et al) was the first for Cornwall and sixth for the UK. Another was seen at Soap Cove on 29th Sep-4th Oct 2018 (B Cave, T Blunden et al).

Brown Shrike, Carn Goon. Thor Veen

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio [BoCC5: Red]

Historically a moderately common breeder on the borders of Devon and Cornwall, and reporting as breeding at Marazion, but there are no documented cases of breeding from the Lizard area.

It is currently a rare spring and more frequent autumn migrant. In spring, extreme dates are 11th May (1998) and 19th Jun (1981). In autumn, extreme dates are 7th Aug (1996 & 2020) and 11th Nov (2005). The first documented record is of one near Mannacan on 15th Aug 1951.

Red-backed Shrike, Windmill Farm, Sep 2014. Ilya Maclean

The same Red-backed Shrike hawking insects in flight. Tony Blunden

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Red-backed Shrike on the Lizard Peninsula.

Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor

Historically, as at present, the species was a rare (predominantly) late autumn migrant and winter visitor. The first record is of one killed Gweek pre 1851, probably in the 1840s. Other early records are of singles reported from Mullion on 2nd Jun 1928 and Lanarth, St. Keverne on May 1951, though given the time of year these occurred, one wonders about Lesser Grey Shrike, which quite frequently occurs in the UK at this time of year.

More recent records are of singles: near Constantine on 21st Nov 1982, at Caerthillian on 17th Oct 2007 (B Cave). Also, of a mobile bird frequenting Lizard Village, Cadgwith and Grade Ruan on 12th Oct 2010. One at Windmill Farm on 20th Nov 2016 (D Wright) was possible the same as that seen on Lizard Downs on 5th Feb 2017 (T Blunden). Also one near Gweek 19th Jan 2021.

The 2010 Great Grey Shrike at Church Cove. Tony Blunden

(Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor)

2 old records of 'Great Grey Shrikes' in May and June were quite possibly misidentified (see above) .

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Formally exceptionally rare but currently almost annual with spring birds more common than autumn birds, though that is primarily because of a significant increase in the number of spring birds recorded, with just 1 spring record in the 1970s, 5 in the 1980s, 7 in the 1990s, 6 in the 2000s, 19 in the 2010s, 4 in 2020, 3 in 2021, 3 in 2022 and 1 in 2023. In recent years there have been several blank years, followed by years in which there are several sightings, implying that if one turns up it is worth looking for more.

Autumn birds are of singles at Caerthillian on 29th Aug 1976 and 22nd-23rd Sep 2002, Kynance on 20th Sep 1980, Lizard Area on 12th-15th Aug 1986 and 4th Oct 1992, Kynance Downs 23rd Aug 2002, Kynance Cove 22nd-23rd Sep 2002, Gunwalloe on 1st Sep 2010 and Kynance on 30th Aug-11th Sep 2015. Extreme dates are 1st Apr (2007) and 4th Oct (1992).

Sub-species badius (Balearic Woodchat Shrike) was recorded at Windmill Farm on 10th-11th Apr 2010.

Woodchat Shrike near Windmill Farm, 2nd April 2016. Tony Blunden

Woodchat Shrike, Lloyd's Lane, 3rd Jun 2021. Joe Jones.

The badius Woodchat Shrike at Windmill Farm. Tony Blunden.

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Woodchat Shrike on the Lizard Peninsula.

Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus

Rare with just 3, or possibly 4 records. Singles were seen at Church Cove on 30th Sep-10th Oct 1991 (B Cave), Loe Pool on 3rd-7th Nov 1998 and Church Cove 2nd-4th Oct 2019 (D Collins). One seen briefly on Chapel Lane on 20th Oct 2018 (R Curtis) vanished after the initial sighting.

Red-eyed Vireo, Church Cove, 2nd October 2016. Tony Blunden

Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus [BoCC5: Extinct]

There is no historic evidence of breeding from anywhere in Cornwall, though in the mid 19th century it was seen so often and occurred in such numbers that was thought by some authorities to have done so.

In the Lizard area, it is currently a scarce migrant, though almost annual. The first record was of one on a fishing vessel off Porthleven in 1827. Other older records are of singles at Housel Bay on 14th Jun 1955, Cadgwith on 11th May 1974 and Church Cove on 14th May 1974, in the Lizard area on 24th May 1982, near St Keverne on 30th Oct 1982, and Goonhilly on 8th May 1983 & 24th Apr 1984. Also 2 at Higher Bochym on 27th Apr 1987.

In the 1990s, singles were seen or heard occasionally at Church Cove: on 10th & 17th May 1994, 6th May 1996, 18th-19th May & 8th June 1997. Also at Kennack Sands on 1st Jun 1991, Poltesco on 22nd May 1994, Trelowarren on 8th May 1995, Helston on 18th May 1997, Predannack Airfield on 28th Mar 1998 and Chyvarloe on 15th Jun 1998

Since 2000 records have mostly been from Windmill Farm and Goonhilly, with singles seen at Goonhilly on 13th May 2000, 28th Apr 2014, 15th May 2015 and 2 there on 4th May 2016. Sightings from Windmill Farm are of singles on 28th Apr 2003, 13th Jun 2010, 19th May 2011, 3rd May 2012, 11th May 2014, 28th May 2021 and 28th May 2023.

Elsewhere there are spring records from Lizard Village on 27th Apr 2008, Kynance Road on 28th Apr 2008, Soap Cove on 5th May 2008, Hayle Kimbro on 23rd May 2010, Ponsongath on 6th Jun 2019, Caerthilliean on 28th May 2021 and along the Kynance Road on 29th May 2021. These two records are likely of the same bird, and probably the same as that seen at Windmill Farm. In 2022 one was seen at Kyance on 31st May.

A winter record of one in the Lizard Area on 6th Feb 1969 is said to have been seeen at Gillan, St-Anthony-in-Meange, seems quite implausible, though there was one in Lizard Village on 23rd Oct-2nd Nov 2005 and more recently one in January 2023 just outside Penzance. The only other autumn record is of a possible sighting of one at Manaccan on 12th Sep 2018.

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Golden Oriole on the Lizard Peninsula.

Jay Garrulus glandarius

The historic range of this species is probably not dissimilar to its current range, with Clark (1902), for example, documenting it as being predominantly confined on the Lizard Peninsula to the woods of Meneage District

It is currently a fairly common breeding resident and irruptive migrant. More unusual towards the very south of the Lizard though occasional birds do appear and in October 2021 there was a large influx with 47 recorded in a single flock. As historically, however, it remains more common in the wooded areas to the north.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Jay on the Lizard. The squares indicate present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Magpie Pica pica

The abundance of this species in Cornwall has been documented as far back as the early 1800s, though it has probably become more common since then owing to reduced persecution. It is currently a common breeding resident throughout the Lizard.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Magpie on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes

An old record of one at Manaccan in Dec 1808 was rejected by the BBRC, though some credence is given to the record by another being shot in north Devon in the same year, implying a possible invasion. During the influx year of 1968 one was recorded at Hendra near Ruan Major on 8th Oct.

Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Noted as breed widely in the Lizard area in the 1700s. Documented from specific locations (Mullion, Predannack Head, Kynance, Lizard Point, Enys Head, Horse Point and Manacle Point in 1856, but widely persecuted and in steep decline at that time. Prior to recolonisation, the last recorded breeding records are from Gue Graze in 1865.

Second-hand reports of birds near Cury in May 1987 and Poldhu in 1989 are not very reliable and at the time escaped birds from Paradise Park would appear in the wilds of Cornwall periodically.

Breeding resident after returning on 4th Apr 2001, after a significant influx which saw 3 birds establish on the south coast. A further bird was seen at Mullion 20th-21st Oct 2003. It has since established itself and is not uncommon.

A Chough between Loe Bar and Porthleven, 23rd Aug 2023. Ilya Maclean

Chough near Lizard Point, Aug 2020. Ilya Maclean

Jackdaw Coloeus monedula

Carew (1602) counts "Iacke-Daw" among the "sea-fowle not eatable" and it has probably always been widespread in coastal areas. Nevertheless, Clark (1902) remarks that the species had increased greatly during the last 60 years although on what evidence this was based is uncertain. It is currently a common breeding resident found throughout the Lizard Peninsula.

Jackdaw at Lizard Point. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Jackdaw on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Rook Corvus frugilegus [BoCC5: Amber]

In contrast to other corvids, the rook was historically considered a bird of good omen. Rather than being persecuted, nesting was often encouraged. In the detailed Rookery survey of 1975/76, 1486 nests were recorded in the five 10 km OS grid cells encompassing the Lizard (SW61, SW62, SW71, SW72 and SW82). It remains a common breeding resident.

Historic (1982) confirmed breeding distribution of Rook on the Lizard.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone

At least since 1838, this species is documented as being common and widespread. It remains a common breeding resident and may have increased owing to reduced persecution.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Carrion Crow on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix

Documented as a fairly common winter visitor to coastal areas of Cornwall in the 16th century, though no specific mention of the Lizard is made. Currently rare, though seemingly increasing. Just outside Lizard a bird at Breage on 21st Jan 1946 is the first documented sighting for the area. One was also seen on the Lizard-Helston road on 9th Aug 1948. Other early records include singles at Trethvas on 27th May 1961, Culdrose on 14th Nov 1981 and the Lizard area 12th-15th Jun 1988.

In 2004, one was present around Lizard Village for several weeks from 22nd Mar and was seen at Kynance on 12th Apr. Subsequent records are of singles at Grade Marsh on 10th May 2006 (B Cave), Lizard area 27th May 2010, Old Lizard Head 9th Jun 2011, Caerthillian 2nd Apr 2011, Traboe 26th Feb 2015, Lizard Village 21st Apr 2015, Church Cove 8th May 2015, Lizard Village 17th Apr 2017, Kynance on 21st Apr 2019, Lizard Point 9th-10th & Lizard Village 20th Jun 2020, Grade Marsh on 12th Sep 2020 and Lizard Point 28th Feb 2021. Quite a few of the separate sightings likely refer to the same wandering birds.

Hooded Crow near Lizard Point, 10th June 2020. Ilya Maclean

Raven Corvus corax

The coasts of Cornwall have always been a stronghold for this species in the UK. It remains a fairly common resident breeder. A few pairs nest at various sites along the coast.

Raven, 10th March 2017. Tony Blunden

Historic (1982) confirmed breeding distribution of Raven on the Lizard.

Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus

A rare winter visitor from Scandanavia and eastward. The first record was of several seen in Helston in 1828 (date uncertain).

Subsequent records, all of singles, are:

1961: 19th Nov (Gweek).

1991: 11th Feb (Garras).

1996: 1st-29th Feb (Helston).

2003: 22nd-25th Jan (St. Keverne).

2009: 6th Jan (Lizard Village).

2011: 1st-17th Feb (Helston)

2012: 6th-9th Dec (Lizard Village)

2021: 2nd Jan (Penrose).

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