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Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

At a glance

The corn bunting is a large bunting and unusual in that both sexes have similar plumage. It is often spotted perching on exposed wires, fences, posts and branches singing away. The male’s song is a repetitive metallic sound which he can perform for up to an hour. Its numbers have declined significantly in the UK due to changes in agricultural practices which have deprived it of its main food supplies of seeds and insects, and it is no extinct in Wales and Ireland.

Key facts

Scientific name: Emberiza calandra
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 11,000 territories

Conservation status: Red

Family: Buntings

Length: 17 – 19 cm
Wingspan: 28 – 30 cm
Weight: 32 – 67 g
Typical lifespan: 3 years

What do corn buntings look like?

Adult corn buntings have grey-brown upperparts with dark streaks. The rump and uppertail coverts have darker grey markings, and the upperwing has dark brown feathers edged with grey. The tail is brown with white tips on the outer rectrices.

The underparts are pale buff with dark streaks on the breast, sides of the body, and flanks. The chin and throat are whiteish. The streaks on the breast may form a dark patch.

The head is olive-brown with narrow dark streaks. The ear coverts may be slightly darker and the lores and supercilium are paler. There is a dark malar stripe that borders the chin and breast and a white submoustachial stripe with fine dark streaks. The bill is pale yellow with a grey upper ridge, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are pin.

Male and female corn buntings look similar, but the male is larger.

Juveniles resemble adults but they are paler and have less streaked underparts.

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How do corn buntings breed?

Corn buntings breed from late May to early June and produce 2 or 3 broods a season. They build their nests on the ground, in a clump of grass, or within brambles. The female builds a loose structure from grass lined with finer materials.

Corn buntings lay 4-6 white eggs with darker markings which are incubated by the female for 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by the female while the males stays near the nest continuously singing. Chicks fledge about 9-13 days after hatching but are unable to fly when they have left the nest spending their time hidden in thick vegetation near the nest.

What do corn buntings eat?

Corn buntings eat mainly seeds from weeds and grasses. During breeding season they will also eat insects, spiders, caterpillars, slugs and worms.

Corn Bunting

Where can I see corn buntings?

Corn buntings can be seen all year round in open farmland. During winter they move into farmyards. The are found all over the UK except Wales, Northern Ireland and the west of England and Scotland.

What do corn buntings sound like?

Francesco Sottile/xeno-canto

Did you know?

In the hierarchy of the corn bunting world, males with a more mates will sing more often than males with only one mate.

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