Bunting (bird)

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For other uses, see Bunting (disambiguation).
Emberiza citrinella 1 (Marek Szczepanek).jpg
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae


Buntings are a group of Eurasian and African passerine birds of the family Emberizidae.

They are seed-eating birds with stubby, conical bills, and are the Old World equivalents of the species known in North America as (American) sparrows. (However, these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae.)

Their habits are similar to those of finches, with which they sometimes used to be grouped. Some emberizids are still named "finches" rather than "buntings". Conversely, there are species retaining the name "bunting" which are now classed in the cardinal family. Among those are the painted and indigo buntings.

Genera and species[edit]

In taxonomic order (but see Systematics section below).

The lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) is an American sparrow.

The Lapland bunting (Calcarius lapponicus) is also known as Lapland longspur, and is considered under longspurs, and also placed in a separate family Calcariidae.[1]


A recent paper[2] has revealed some of the internal structure of the genus Emberiza dividing it into four main clades. Despite morphological divergences the genera Latoucheornis, Miliaria and Melophus were all found to be nested within Emberiza leading the authors to propose their synonymisation with that genus.

Clade A - Emberiza species: tristrami, variabilis, chrysophrys, aureola, pusilla, rutila, rustica, sulphurata, spodocephala, schoeniclus, pallasi, yessoensis, elegans, with "Latoucheornis" siemsseni.

Clade B - Emberiza species: leucocephalos, citrinella, stewarti, cirlus, hortulana, caesia, buchanani, cia, godlewskii, cioides, jankowskii, fucata, with "Miliaria" calandra.

Clade C - Emberiza species: melanocephala, bruniceps with "Melophus" lathami.

Clade D - Emberiza species: striolata, tahapisi, impetuana, capensis, flaviventris, cabanisi.

Buntings not yet tested and therefore still to be placed in this scheme include Emberiza species koslowi & cineracea (probably in clade B), and sahari, socotrana, poliopleura, and affinis (probably in clade D).


  1. ^ a b Per Alström, Urban Olsson, Fumin Lei, Hai-tao Wang, Wei Gao, Per Sundberg (2008). "Phylogeny and classification of the Old World Emberizini (Aves, Passeriformes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47 (3): 960–73. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.12.007. PMID 18411062. 
  2. ^ Alström, P., Olsson, U., Lei, F., Wang, H-t., Gao, W. & Sundberg, P. Phylogeny and classification of the Old World Emberizini (Aves, Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 47, pp. 960-973.


Buntings and Sparrows - A Guide to the Buntings and North American Sparrows by Urban Olsson and Jon Curson, illustrated by Clive Byers (1995) ISBN 1-873403-19-4

External links[edit]