Found mainly across southern and western continental Europe and parts of north Africa, this attractive little bird can also be found on New Zealand’s South Island following a successful introduction in the late 19th century.
22cm to 25.5cm
21g to 27g
Cirl Bunting perched on a rock
The male cirl bunting’s call is a high pitched, short, solitary note of ‘sip’. The song consists of a metallic sounding trilling similar to ‘ti – ti – ti – ti -ti’ often sung from a bush or perched in a tree and is loud enough to be heard from a distance of up to half a kilometre.
Cirl Bunting Song / Call
Loan Delpit, XC566700. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/566700.
Female Cirl Bunting
During the summer the bird’s preferred diet consists of insects and in particular grasshoppers or locusts. In the winter when there is a scarcity of insects cirl buntings feed on grass seeds and cereal grains foraged from the ground.
Cirl Bunting on a branch
This non migratory little bird is predominantly found within the temperate regions of southern Europe particularly around the Mediterranean, mainland Spain and Portugal, central and southern France, Italy, the Balkans and island groups including the Balearics, Greek Isles, Sicily and Sardinia and regions in north west Africa. Small numbers can be found along the south coast of the UK, particularly between the cities of Exeter and Plymouth and larger populations within the southern hemisphere on New Zealand’s South Island.
Back of a Cirl Bunting
Warm, generally gentle bushy slopes, farmland or small wooded areas fringed with hedges or scrub are ideal venues from which to study cirl buntings. In size and basic appearance resembling a finch but with a longer tail, the male can often be seen singing from the tops of bushes or heard vocalising amongst the trees, requiring patience and an eagle’s eye to spot! They can frequently be seen in small flocks. As with most buntings the bill is short and broad, dark grey to black above and a blue grey below. The bill is constructed in such a way so that the upper mandible, which is smaller than the wider and deeper lower mandible, fits neatly into it.
Cirl Bunting in water
Females build the nest alone over three to four days from twigs, stalks and grasses, lined with fine grass and hair and located low down in bushes or scrub. Dependent upon region, an average of two broods are produced annually between, mid April to late August, usually consisting of 2 – 5 greyish white, brown speckled eggs which are incubated by the female for up to two weeks. Both parents feed the young in the nest and fledging will normally occur between eleven and thirteen days.
Male and Female Cirl Bunting
Juvenile Cirl Bunting
The normal lifespan for a cirl bunting is two to three years.
Sparrow-sized and common in wetlands with reedbeds. Males are highly distinctive in their breeding plumage.
There are forty five different species of Old World Buntings, which are predominantly European seed eating birds similar to finches and are related to American Sparrows. Of the forty five different species, forty fall within the genus of Emberiza. The corn bunting is generally classed within this genus and is monotypic.
Get the latest BirdFacts delivered straight to your inbox