The Yellowhammer is a rather large bunting, (about 10% longer than a Chaffinch) with a distinctly forked tail. Adult male Yellowhammers are vibrant birds in the breeding season, their red brown plumage streaked with black, is supplemented by bright yellow on the head and belly. During the winter months, the plumage is more subdued, but the yellow can still be seen on the head, under the bill and below the cheeks. The yellow on the underparts can be difficult to see. The red-brown rump is another feature worth looking out for. The females and immatures are duller in colour, often with only a faint yellow tinge.
Yellowhammers are birds of open countryside, present across much of Britain, making them one of the most familiar farmland species. They are typically associated with hedgerows where suitable song posts are available. Yellowhammers are much less common on high ground, an area from which there has been some range contraction in recent decades.
It is outside the breeding season that Yellowhammers are dependent upon large grass seeds (including cereal seeds), so the decline in numbers witnessed over recent decades is likely to be related to food availability. If food becomes impossible to find in open habitats because of snow cover, then Yellowhammers will move to human settlements, notably farmyards and, to a lesser extent, rural gardens.
One bird, twelve journeys, 60 000 miles and invaluable scientific data: PJ the Cuckoo has left an incredible legacy.