Corn bunting

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Corn bunting
Emberiza calandra -Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France-8.jpg
In Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Emberiza
E. calandra
Binomial name
Emberiza calandra
EmberizaCalandraIUCN2018 2.png
Range of E. calandra     Breeding      Resident      Non-breeding
  • Emberiza miliaria Linnaeus, 1766
  • Miliaria calandra (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Miliaria europaea Swainson, 1837
  • Miliaria minor (Radde, 1884)
  • Crithagra miliaria (Linnaeus, 1766)

The corn bunting (Emberiza calandra) is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a group now separated by most modern authors from the finches, Fringillidae. It is usually placed in the genus Emberiza, but some taxonomists place it in the monotypic genus Miliaria.[2][3] The genus name Emberiza is from Old German Embritz, a bunting. The specific calandra is from Ancient Greek kalandros, the calandra lark.[4]


An illustration by Ferdinand von Wright

This is an unusual bunting because the plumages of the sexes are similar in appearance, though the male is approximately 20% larger than the female. This large bulky bunting is 16–19 cm long, with a conspicuously dark eye and yellowish mandibles. Males lack any showy colours, especially on the head, which is otherwise typical of genus Emberiza. Both sexes look something like larks, being streaked grey-brown above with whitish underparts. The underparts are streaked over the flanks and breast, and the streaking forms gorget around the throat. The lesser wing coverts are distinctively dark and white-tipped. The tail is plain brown.[5]

The song of the male is a repetitive metallic sound, usually likened to jangling keys, which is given from a low bush, fence post or telephone wires.

Male singing, recorded in Dorset, England

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It breeds across southern and central Europe, north Africa and Asia across to Kazakhstan. It is mainly resident, but some birds from colder regions of central Europe and Asia migrate southwards in winter.

The corn bunting is a bird of open country with trees, such as farmland and weedy wasteland. It has declined greatly in north-west Europe due to intensive agricultural practices depriving it of its food supply of weed seeds and insects, the latter especially when feeding young. It has recently become extinct in Wales and Ireland, where it was previously common.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Food and feeding[edit]

Its natural food consists mainly of seeds but also includes insects such as crickets, especially when feeding young.


Emberiza calandra

Males defend territories in the breeding season and can be polygynous, with up to three females per breeding male. The population sex ratio is generally 1:1, which means some males remain unmated during a season. Males play only a small role in parental care; they are not involved in nest building or incubation, and only feed the chicks when they are over half grown.

The nest is made of grass, lined with hair or fine grass, and is usually built on the ground. Average clutch size is four, but commonly varies from three to five, occasionally six.

Status and conservation[edit]

In England, the government's environmental organisation Natural England offers grants towards implementing measures to conserve this species, under the environmental stewardship scheme.[6]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Miliaria calandra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Allende, Luis M; Rubio I; Ruíz-del-Valle V; Guillén J; Martínez-Laso J; Ernesto L; Varela P; Zamora J; Arnaiz-Villena A. (2001). "The Old World Sparrows (Genus Passer) Phylogeography and Their Relative Abundance of Nuclear mtDNA Pseudogenes" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Evolution. 53 (2): 144–154. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s002390010202. PMID 11479685.
  3. ^ "Corn Bunting". Handbook of the Birds of the World. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London, United Kingdom: Christopher Helm. pp. 84, 145. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ "Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra". Bird Field Guide. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  6. ^ Natural England Environmental Stewardship Scheme webpages

External links[edit]