Posted on 24 Comments

The Yellowhammer


The Yellowhammer - Cameos of Birdlife #12

The Yellowhammer and his song has become embedded in our cultural memory and rural heritage. Immortalised by Beethoven and Enid Blyton.

A bird of lanes, fields, and gorse covered headlands he accompanied me on many childhood walks and cycle rides. Like the ‘Famous Five’ part of my growing up.

stopping for ginger beer we hear a yellowhammer 

I can think of no other bird whose bright yellow colour and song - ‘a little bit of bread and no cheeeeese’ - was so widely recognised. Now you will be lucky indeed to see or hear one.

Richard Jefferies fondly remembers the Yellowhammer most from his boyhood too [...] ‘There is sunshine in the song – and whose colour, like that of the wild flowers and the sky, has never faded from my memory. His plumage gives a life and tint to the hedge, contrasting so brightly with the vegetation and with other birds. His song is but a few bars repeated, yet it has a pleasing and soothing effect in the drowsy warmth of summer.’ [...]

Wild Life in a Southern County (1879)

longest day

da-da-da-DUM  yellowhammer sing on into the night 

Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major 1


Artist Credit

The featured print of a Yellowhammer is by Lucy Newton and is used here with permission.

Born and raised on a farm just outside West Calder she was always fascinated by the flora and fauna of the surrounding countryside and farmland. Lucy would spend hours exploring and observing everything from frog spawn to frost patterns and developed a deep interest in nature. This love of wildlife has always stayed with her and now forms the basis of almost all her artwork. Lucy spends increasing amounts of time outdoors, observing and recording native British wildlife in its natural state.

To see more of her stunningly beautiful paintings do visit her website and Gallery ...


The recording by Jarek Matusiak is used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license. This and many more can be found at - Xeno-Canto a website dedicated to sharing bird sounds from all over the world.


  1. There is some debate whether the song of the Yellowhammer really was the inspiration for his most famous 5th Symphony. One school of thought suggests that it was the Ortolan Bunting and not the Yellowhammer. Listen to the intro and some of the repetitive phrasing in his 4th to hear the Yellowhammer.
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June 15, 2021 12:18 pm

Thank you for this. A nice way to wake up.

June 15, 2021 1:35 pm

Brilliant! Thank you, Clive! What a bird!

Tish Farrell
Tish Farrell
June 15, 2021 3:13 pm

A lovely celebration of the yellow hammer. I can’t think when I last saw one. Despite our country location we seem to be amazingly short on all kinds of birds.

June 16, 2021 6:47 am

Love the painting and the thoughts and reflections about the yellow hammer. So sad you’re noticing the disappearance of species.

Jane Pearce janesnaturewalks
June 16, 2021 8:41 pm

I went to Martin Down with my brother a couple of weeks ago and saw them there as well as corn buntings

Mary Spaid
June 17, 2021 12:52 am

Love your painting!! So much color and detail.

Mary Spaid
June 17, 2021 12:58 am

Oh wait! Sorry! You are not the artist…..Lucy Newton is!
Thank you so much for posting her work…I have never seen a yellowhammer bird before. Here in Texas, I am hearing and seeing Mockingbirds everywhere. They are the Texas state bird and there is one who has recently been singing all night long in the Oak tree outside of my bedroom window. Sometimes difficult to sleep!

Mick Canning
June 17, 2021 8:30 pm

Don’t see many now. I think the last one I saw was three or four years ago on the South Downs Way.

Clare Pooley
Clare Pooley
June 21, 2021 6:08 pm

I think I must live in the last Yellowhammer outpost. I hear them all day and see them regularly, singing from the top of hedges. In April I was fortunate to be looking out of an upstairs window at just the right moment. I was amazed to see a tree next to our hedge covered in what I thought were yellow flowers. I then got my glasses and binoculars and saw that the tree was full of yellowhammers! I am not sure if they had just arrived from somewhere or were gathering to journey elsewhere. I took some really poor photos of the event. It was a dull and cold day and my camera was zoomed to its fullest extent. A few years ago a group of German ornithologists stayed in the area and studied our yellowhammers. They had cars with recording equipment on the roof. We found it all very intriguing!
Thank you for featuring Lucy Newton’s work – it is beautiful!

Andrea Stephenson
June 25, 2021 3:42 pm

It does sound like a joyful song, perfect for accompanying adventures!

Philip Strange
June 27, 2021 11:55 am

We do see yellowhammers down here on the coast in south Devon and as you say they are unmistakeable, some call the males flying bananas! Let us not forget that the decline of these and other farmland birds is a result of intensive farming especially the switch from spring sown cereals to autumn sown

Richard Sutton
July 2, 2021 5:05 pm

Like you I remember them when out on walks or cycling down country lanes. Happily there are still some here on the Sussex Downs.