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.
The adult corn bunting is a stocky, medium sized, predominantly brown coloured bird, with darker brown or black streaks. The back is a mid brown streaked with dark brown from the nape to the base of the tail. The head is paler with less patternation whilst the crown has dark stripes. The upperwing feathers and tail are plain brown whilst the underparts are a paler brown with similar dark streaks, particularly to the breast and flanks. Often the dark streaks that run down the breast will morph together forming a central dark chest patch. The underbelly streaking extends towards the vent whilst the belly itself is a pale greyish buff. The eye is very dark surrounded by a pale eye ring and the bill is powerful, triangular and large, with the upper mandible fitting into the larger and broader lower mandible, typical of a seed eater and is yellowish in colour. Male and female birds have identical plumage whilst the male is considerably larger than the female. Juveniles resemble adults although the brown buff base colour which surrounds the bird is found across both the upper and lower parts.
Close up of a Corn Bunting
Whilst the call is a short staccato ‘kwit, kwit’ sound, the song itself is a metallic, repetitive, ‘ti-ti-ti-tchee-chirrichirrichirri’, often sung from a fence post, overhead cable or perch in a bush.
Corn Bunting song
Micha Luhn, XC657061. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/657061.
Corn Bunting flying away
A ground feeder and forager the corn bunting eats mainly seeds in the winter and both insects and seeds and grains during the summer months.
Corn Bunting singing
In the main the corn bunting is a resident breeder throughout south and central Europe and North Africa into eastern Asia as far as Kazakhstan. Small colonies breeding in central eastern Europe, Ukraine, southwest Russia and Belarus migrate south to the coastal regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and from Afghanistan to northeast China. They tend to congregate in farmland with hedgerows and limited tree growth, arable land with cereal crops and low lying pastures and rolling meadows.
Corn Bunting with spread wings
When seen foraging, the corn bunting tends to hop or creep across the ground as opposed to walking and often feeds in small groups, taking flight and hiding in hedges when disturbed. During winter months large flocks of them are frequently seen foraging together. In flight the lack of patternation on their wings and tail is more obvious as is their habit of dangling their legs when aloft. The metallic song is often likened to the sound of jangling keys.
Corn Bunting perched on flowers
Across their range, dependent upon geographical location, the breeding season extends from late March until June when nests are built directly on the ground by the female from grass and roots, often lined with small leaves and fine grasses. One or two broods are produced annually each consisting of an average of 4 – 6 very pale blue, speckled eggs, which are incubated by the female alone for up to two weeks. The chicks remain in the nest for between ten to thirteen days frequently leaving before they are able to fly. Breeding males will often mate with other females and instances of male birds mating with up to eighteen different females in one season, whilst not common, have been documented in the past.
Corn Bunting drinking water
The life expectancy of a corn bunting is between two to three years.
Sparrow-sized and common in wetlands with reedbeds. Males are highly distinctive in their breeding plumage.