Looks noticeably larger than Yellowhammer with proportionately rather longer bill, more obvious neck, rather longer wings, and distinctly longer legs, but similar tail length; marginally larger than Red-headed Bunting, but no visible structural difference. 2nd largest bunting of west Palearctic, with rather long, tapering bill, rather long body, and noticeably long legs combining into characteristically heavy but sleek form shared only by Red-headed Bunting. Combination of uniformly pale, unstreaked underparts and lack of white outer tail-feathers excludes all other buntings except Red-headed Bunting. ( distinctive, with black head, chestnut back, and yellow underparts; ) and immature lack obvious characters and may not be separable from Red-headed Bunting.
Breeds in south-west Palearctic in warm temperate, Mediterranean, and steppe zones, between July isotherms of 23-32°C, generally in lowlands, avoiding both drier and wetter extremes. Favours fairly dense and tall bushy and scrub vegetation, including open maquis, wooded steppes, orchards, olive groves, and vineyards, and groves or thickets along streamsides, roadsides, or field borders. Also found in open forest with undergrowth, in open lowland grassland with scrub, especially thorn scrub, and on mountain slopes. Wintering birds in India feed in flocks and cultivated fields, sometimes causing serious damage to standing crops, also occupy scrub jungle, roosting in enormous concentrations with other species in thorn scrub and thickets.
Emberiza melanocephala is a widespread summer visitor to south-east Europe, which
constitutes >50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
very large (>2,800,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990.
Although the species increased slightly overall during 1990-2000-mainly due to the
increase of the stronghold population in Turkey-its population has probably not
yet recovered to the level that preceded its decline.
Seeds and other plant material; invertebrates in breeding season. In summer quarters, forages principally in cultivated areas: cereal or sunflower fields, vineyards, orange groves, etc., feeding both on ground and in shrubs or low in trees. Most foraging observations concern migrant birds or winter visitors, since species occurs then in huge numbers often causing considerable damage to millet and other cereals, maize, and rice.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population, including an estimated 5,600,000-19,000,000 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. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
May in West Italy, mid May to half of June in Croatia, mid may to end of June in Greece, May to mid June in Turkey.
Nest site is built in low down in dense, often thorny shrub bramble, rose, rockrose, christ’s thorn and commonly on vine.
Nest is made of loose, untidy foundation of stalks of herbs, grass, and leaves, lined with fine grasses, stems, rootlets, hair, and sheep’s wool. Fairly often with brightly-colored flower-heads on outside.
4-5 eggs, and incubation lasts 13-15 days and is done by both sexes.
Migratory, all birds moving south-east or ESE to winter in western and central India. Leaves breeding grounds early, and returns late. Departure (inconspicuous) late July to August, arriving India August-September. Occasional midwinter records from breeding range or intermediate areas, e.g. Israel. In spring, leaves winter quarters March-April; reaches Turkey mostly from late April; sometimes reported in Cyprus as early as March, but usually arrives in early or mid-April, with movement continuing to mid-May. Arrives on Aegean islands and Makedonija late April and early May. Vagrancy west of range is mostly in spring, suggesting overshooting.
- spanwidth min.: 26 cm
- spanwidth max.: 30 cm
- size min.: 16 cm
- size max.: 17 cm
- incubation min.: 13 days
- incubation max.: 15 days
- fledging min.: 13 days
- fledging max.: 16 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 4
- eggs max.: 5
- Conservation Status