Cirl Bunting

Emberiza cirlus

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

What does a Cirl Bunting look like?

Cirl Bunting perched on a rock

Cirl Bunting perched on a rock

What does a Cirl Bunting sound like?

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

Female Cirl Bunting

Female Cirl Bunting

What does a Cirl Bunting eat?

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

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

Back of a Cirl Bunting

Signs and Spotting tips

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

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.

Cirl bunting male and female

Male and Female Cirl Bunting

Juvenile cirl bunting

Juvenile Cirl Bunting

How long do Cirl Buntings live for?

The normal lifespan for a cirl bunting is two to three years.

Similar birds to a Cirl Bunting

Other birds in the Buntings family

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