Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)


Passeriformes Emberizidae Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza citrinella | [UK] Yellowhammer | [FR] Bruant jaune | [DE] Goldammer | [ES] Escribano Cerillo | [IT] Zigolo giallo | [NL] Geelgors

Physical charateristics

Bright yellow bird with reddish brown upperparts, streaked with darker brown; this distinguishes it from the cirl bunting which has a greenish rump; male has bright yellow head and underparts, the female is more heavily marked with brown streaks.

wingspan min.: 23 cm wingspan max.: 29 cm
size min.: 16 cm size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 11 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Emberiza citrinella is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which constitutes
>50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is extremely
large (>18,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were
declines in Fennoscandia and western Europe during 1990-2000, most central and
eastern European populations-including sizeable ones in Germany, Czech Republic,
Poland and Ukraine-were stable (the Russian trend was unknown). The species
probably declined only slightly overall

Listen to the sound of Yellowhammer

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto


The yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella is a member of the bunting family and a characteristic res ident species of lowland arable and mixed farmland. It is most obvious in spring and summer when the male has a bright yellow head and breast and perches, singing, on the tops of tall bushes, trees and telegraph wires. The nest is close to ground level in dense grass, field margins, ditch vegetation, at the base of thick low hedgerows or in thick scrub.

Foraging habits

Yellowhammers feed on grain, weed seed and the seeds of large grasses in winter,foraging in cereals, cereal stubbles and crop margins. In spring and summer adults and chicks feed mainly on invertebrates.

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Breeding habits

The yellowhammer builds its nest on or close to the ground in dense vegetation, often at the base of a thick hedge, bank or gorse bush. The nest is made of grasses, leaves, moss and straw and lined with fine grasses. Breeding starts in early April when the first clutch of three to four eggs is laid, and a pair can lay up to three broods each season. The eggs are covered with fine black scribbles. The young are fed on insect food such as caterpillars.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population, including an estimated 35,000,000-62,000,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. (source

Yellowhammer status Least Concern


Sedentary to migratory, with most populations partial migrants; also dispersive. Vacates entirely only extreme north of range, and winters chiefly within breeding range, especially in milder years. European migrants head chiefly south-west, usually moving only short or medium distances (up to c. 500 km in northern Europe, and c. 250 km in central Europe), so birds wintering south of range in Mediterranean region are mostly from central or southern Europe. Ringing data show that individuals winter in widely differing areas in different years: e.g. bird ringed winter in northern France recovered in south-west France in later winter, one ringed eastern France was recovered in northern Italy, and 2 ringed Germany recovered in Spain. Hard weather movements occur midwinter.
Autumn movement September-November(-December), peaking early October in northern Europe. In south of winter range, recorded chiefly December-February in Camargue (southern France) and Cyprus, November-February in Jordan and Israel. Spring movement February-May, mostly March-April. Reaches extreme north of Scandinavia late April to May.

Distribution map breeding season

Yellowhammer range map summer


Title Interspecific feeding of a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) fledgling by adult Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella)
Author(s): R. Drozdz, M. Hromada and P. Tryjanowski
Abstract: On 25 May 2003, near the village Budy (Biebrza Mar..[more]..
Source: BIOLOGICAL LETT. 2004, 41(2): 185ñ187

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Title Foraging habitat selection by yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella)
nesting in agriculturally contrasting regions in lowland England
Author(s): Antony J. Morri, Mark J. Whittingham, Richard B. Bradbury
Abstract: Fine-scale habitat use by yellowhammers (Emberiza ..[more]..
Source: Biological Conservation 101 (2001) 197-210

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Title Use of field margins by foraging yellowhammers
Emberiza citrinella
Author(s): Allan J. Perkins, Mark J. Whittingham, Antony J. Morris, Richard B. Bradbury
Abstract: Some agri-environment schemes promote the creation..[more]..
Source: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 93 (2002) 413-420

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Title Indirect effects of pesticides on breeding yellowhammer
(Emberiza citrinella)
Author(s): Antony J. Morris, Jeremy D. Wilson, Mark J. Whittingham, Richard B. Bradbury
Abstract: Intensification of agriculture is believed to have..[more]..
Source: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 106 (2005) 1-16

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Title Habitat selection by yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella on lowland farmland at two spatial scales: implications for conservation management
Author(s): Mark J. Whittingham, Ruth D. Swetnam, Jeremy D. Wilson, Dan E. Chamberlain and Robert P. Freckleton
Abstract: Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella populations have ..[more]..
Source: Journal of Applied Ecology 2005 42 , 270-280

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Title Effects of predation risk on diurnal mass dynamics and foraging routines of yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella)
Author(s): Ineke T. van der Veen
Abstract: Theoretical models predict that when having fat re..[more]..
Source: Behavioral Ecology Vol. 10 No. 5: 545-551

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