Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting


Profile Ortolan Bunting     Literature page Ortolan

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza hortulana | [UK] Ortolan Bunting | [FR] Bruant ortolan | [DE] Ortolan | [ES] Escribano Hortelano | [IT] Ortolano | [NL] Ortolaan

Ortolaan determination

copyright: J. del Hoyo

Relatively long-billed, rather round-headed, and rather plump bunting. Epitome of trio which also includes E. buchanani and E. caesia and displays in all plumages common characters of bright eye-ring, pale sub-moustachial stripe contrasting with dark malar stripe, and rufous or at least warm buff underparts.
Male shows diagnostic olive-toned head and breast isolating yellow throat. Female and immature less distinctive, requiring careful separation from allies.
Sexes dissimilar, little seasonal variation.

Very varied, from high boreal through temperate, Mediterranean, and steppe zones, and to mountain zones at C 1500 – 2500 m in south of range. Attracted to trees, even breeding in forest glades and clearings, as well as pine forests, tree plantations, forest steppe with birch trees, slopes of low mountains overgrown with grass and small pistachio trees, and orchards. Contrastingly, occurs freely in steep ravines, on bare alluvial deposits, and on rocky ground scantily covered with prickly shrubs. Favours regions of high sunshine and low rainfall, regardless of latitude, and where food is readily available will spread widely over cultivated open land. Does not avoid banks of rivers and lakes but shows little attraction to wetlands, or to human settlement, especially cities.

Emberiza hortulana is a widespread summer visitor to much of Europe, which constitutes
>50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large
(>5,200,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the
species was stable in some countries-most notably its Turkish stronghold-during
1990-2000, it continued to decline across much of Europe, and underwent a small
decline overall. Its population has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded
its decline.
This bunting inhabits major parts of Europe and western Asia. It winters in sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia. The population of the European Union (12 Member States) is estimated at 240000-300000 breeding pairs, 75-80% of which inhabit Spain. It is nevertheless undergoing a strong decline. It has already disappeared from many regions, and its distribution is increasingly fragmented

Mainly invertebrates, also seeds, especially outside breeding season. Forages on bare soil or sprouting crops, but also in deciduous trees, especially oak, for defoliating caterpillars, or in pine for seeds. After breeding season very often in harvested root-crop fields and in areas covered with bird’s-foot.

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 10,000,000-32,000,000 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]

Breeding starts Mid April to late June in Sweden, May to mid Juen in North West Russia, mid Apri to July in Spain, May-July in Israel. The nest site is built on the ground usually in cereals or other arable crop, often potatoes, frequently in depression in soil so top of nest-rim flush with ground, otherwise in vineyards, forest clearings, on rocky slopes, or in thick grass heather, sheltered by overhanging rock or foliage. The nest is mad of a foundation of stalks, stems, roots, and leaves lined with fine grasses, rootlets, and hair. Sometimes when flush with soil, cup has no real foundation, and rough material arranged wreath-like on ground. Clutch size 4-5 eggs, Incubation 11-12 days, by female only.

Long-distance migrant, wintering in subSaharan Africa, north of 5°N. More reported from eastern than western areas of Africa; small numbers winter in southern Arabia. Wintering birds use open upland habitats at 1000-3000 m.
Autumn migration mostly inconspicuous; direction of movement from Fenno-Scandia and other parts of western Europe south-west (or SSW). Spring migration much more conspicuous in most areas. Passage through west and central Mediterranean late March to mid-May with most in 2nd half of April. Passage (or vagrant) birds in Britain and Ireland, mainly on North Sea coast, peak 1st half of May. Arrivals at breeding areas in Belgium and lower Rhine (Germany) from mid-April; main arrival in northern Sweden 2nd half of May. In Leningrad region, birds do not return until 2nd half of May and arrival prolonged into early June.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 23 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 29 cm
  4. size min.: 16 cm
  5. size max.: 17 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 11 days
  8. incubation max.: 12 days
  9. fledging min.: 12 days
  10. fledging max.: 13 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 3
  13. eggs max.: 6
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Ortolaan status Least Concern
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