Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)

Cirl Bunting

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza cirlus | [UK] Cirl Bunting | [FR] Bruant zizi | [DE] Zaunammer | [ES] Escribano Soteno | [NL] Cirlgors


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized bunting, recalling Yellowhammer but with rather smaller, slighter, and more compact form most obvious in often flatter-headed and more hunched appearance. Plumage pattern also recalls Yellowhammer but shows at all times dull greyish-olive to greyish-brown rump. Adult ( colourful, but much less yellow than Yellowhammer, with striking grey-olive crown, black eye-stripe and bib, yellow supercilium and collar, and russet-sided olive chest. ) much less easy to distinguish from Yellowhammer, but ground-colour of plumage more buff than yellow with more linear face pattern, dark greyish-olive (not brown) lesser coverts, and finer streaks below.

Listen to the sound of Cirl Bunting

[audio: Bunting.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 22 cm wingspan max.: 26 cm
size min.: 15 cm size max.: 16 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 11 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : West, Southwest, also Northwest Africa


Breeds within Mediterranean and adjoining oceanic temperate zones of south-west Palearctic; further limited by highly selective climatic, topographical, and ecological requirements. Except in England, is bounded by 20 degrees C July isotherm. Extends to 17 degrees C isotherm in southern Britain but perhaps more importantly limited as British resident to areas with mean January temperature above 6 degrees C, and either at least 1500 hrs of sunshine or less than 105 cm of rainfall per year; other limiting factors are wind, night-frosts, altitude, slope, aspect, and exposure. In addition to such combination of sunshine, low rainfall, and mild winters, has equally exacting ecological requirements. These take somewhat different forms in north and south of range, although preference for benign, often sloping, and sunny terrain is general. In Britain, in contrast to Yellowhammer, avoids extensive open farmland, being confined mainly to small fields with plenty of hedgerow growth and tall trees, elms being favoured before their widespread demise through Dutch elm disease. Where such sites have been taken by human settlements their fringes are occupied, including large gardens and orchards.


Extended throughout range. Devon (south-west England): first clutches started 1st week of May, exceptionally late April. Latest clutches started towards end of August. North-central France: late April, broods usual, often 3. The nest is built Low down and well hidden in dense tree, shrub, hedge, or creeper; often on wall behind vegetation; rather uncommonly on ground. Nest: rather bulky and untidy; foundation of rough stalks, roots, grass, leaves, and moss, lined with fine stems and much hair but not feathers. Clutch 3-4 (2-5), incubation 12-13 days with a fledging period of 11-13 days.

Feeding habits

Seeds, mostly of grass or cereals; invertebrates in breeding season. Feeds almost wholly on ground, sometimes on stems of grasses or low herbs, most commonly on trampled or grazed grass in fields, by tracks, at vineyard edges, and similar weedy places, rarely on bare soil; in winter, very often on rough pasture and stubble.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Cirl Bunting status Least Concern


Most populations essentially sedentary, but many leave colder parts of range in continental Europe in winter. Longest movements recorded up to c. 600-700 km, mainly in southerly and westerly directions.

Distribution map

Cirl Bunting distribution range map

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