Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea)

Cinereous Bunting

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza cineracea | [UK] Cinereous Bunting | [FR] Bruant cendre | [DE] Turkenammer | [ES] Escribano cinereo | [NL] Smyrna-gors


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Emberiza cineracea EU sc ne AF
Emberiza cineracea cineracea
Emberiza cineracea semenowi

Physical charateristics

Strangely featureless bunting, most resembling female or immature
E. melanocephala but showing white tail-feathers. At close range, shows faint plumage pattern converging with Cretzschmar’s Bunting and allies. Pale grey bill and at least faintly yellow throat crucial in identification.
Sexes closely similar, little seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Cinereous Bunting

[audio: Bunting.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 29 cm
size min.: 16 cm size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Southcentral


The species’ requirements are imperfectly known, owing to the scarcity of data from its restricted and, until recently, largely inaccessible areas of occurrence in the south-east West Palearctic, and very poorly surveyed winter quarters. It is a summer visitor to warm temperate or Mediterranean climate scrub-covered uplands in Turkey. It breeds on dry rocky slopes, open hillsides and uplands with shrubby vegetation and sometimes as high as the conifer belt. Although initially described as a breeding bird of rocky sparsely vegetated slopes at high altitute, both races have also been found breeding on slopes with
lusher vegetation at lower altitudes. The race semenowi has also been recorded breeding in sheltered valleys with orchards and small fields around Gaziantep in Turkey. In Turkey the breeding habitat ranges from c. 100-500 m (and perhaps to near sea level) in the west of the country, to c. 800-1500 m in central Turkey and to at least c. 1800 m in the east.
In the Greek islands the common breeding habitat for nominate cineracea is described as open rocky hillsides down to sea level with a low, rather sparse cover of low shrubs (on Lesvos predominantly Sarcopoterium spinosum) but it may also use areas with isolated trees, such as Pinus brutia, or taller bushes. On passage, it occurs on stony and rocky slopes/hillsides with low annual grasses and bushes, chiefly in desert uplands, with a few cultivated patches. It appears also to occur on
passage in lowland deserts. In winter the Cinereous Bunting occurs in dry open country with short grass, semi-desert, low
rocky hills, bare cultivated land, or shrubby areas, often in dry coastal areas


The races semenowi and cineracea arrive in their breeding ranges in early April and breeding usually commences during the second half of April but is perhaps later in some areas. Eggs are recorded from the second half of April to late May in western Turkey with the main hatching period being at the end of May. In eastern Turkey fresh complete clutches and young have been noted from late May. The vanguard of the Zagros population may exceptionally arrive as early as late February, and the laying period starts at the end of April. Trees, rocks, powerlines and poles are regularly used as song-posts. The nest is placed on the ground, and concealed by a rock or vegetation, on dry rocky slopes and uplands with shrubby vegetation, occasionally as high as the conifer belt, within scattered trees. It is constructed of stalks, stems, leaves and grass-heads, and lined with rootlets and hair. The nest wall is very thin where adjacent to rock but dense and well woven on the opposite side.

Feeding habits

The feeding behaviour is little known. Data demonstrate the species to be omnivorous. During the breeding season the main food is seeds and small invertebrates such as beetles, spiders, caterpillars, flies, grasshoppers, pupae and snails, taken on the ground. During the rest of the year the diet is probably largely seeds but the species has been observed to take invertebrates during migration. In Israel, it occurs on rocky slopes and in desertic uplands with low vegetation and scrub. Recorded in grassy fields with hedgerows in the Kizilirmak delta (the northernmost record in Turkey. In winter in
Eritrea, small parties forage on rocky ground with short grass.


This poorly known migratory species is classified as Near Threatened because its small population is suspected to be declining as a result of the conversion and degradation of its habitats. Improved information on its population size and trend may in due course lead to a reassessment of its status.
Cinereous Bunting status Near Threatened


The Cinereous Bunting is a nocturnal migrant. Southbound migration commences in July, although juveniles sometimes remain as late as September. Generally, the species leaves its wintering grounds in February and March but semenowi has been recorded in the Zagros (Iran) as early as the end of February. According to BirdLife International’s World Bird Database, the species has been recorded on migration in 18 countries in the Middle East. The species has two, well-separated migration routes. The western route passes through southern Turkey and thence via Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt south along the western coast of the Red Sea to the species’ wintering grounds in coastal northeastern Sudan and Eritrea. This route is used predominantly by nominate cineracea, but also by small numbers of semenowi. The eastern route, used exclusively by semenowi,
follows a more easterly route around the Arabian Gulf to south-western Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The supposed wintering area of these birds is at the south-western tip of Arabia, but this is based on very few actual records and there are no such occurrences in south-central Arabia. The winter range is very poorly known and it is uncertain whether populations using the eastern and western migration routes remain separate or combine.

Distribution map

Cinereous Bunting distribution range map

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