Emberizidae - Buntings
The buntings are ground-dwelling sparrow-like birds found throughout the world. Taxonomic relationships among the 'nine-primaried Oscines' (which includes the tanagers and the New World blackbirds and warblers) are rather unclear since all evolved relatively recently, consequently there is some debate as to exactly where some species should be placed.
All have stout bills, reflecting the preponderance of seeds (mostly of grasses and cereals) in their diet, though they do frequently take insects, particularly to feed the young. In many species the bill can move sideways, allowing birds to husk seeds before eating them. Birds vary in plumage colouration, from the streaky brown of the Corn Bunting to the bright colours of the Yellowhammer; in the more brightly coloured species the female is usually duller than the male.
Although most buntings are monogamous (and territorial), some species, such as the Reed Bunting indulge in extra-pair copulations, some like the Corn Bunting are polygamous, while one or two species form no pair bonds at all, when the female is ready to lay her eggs she will mate repeatedly with two or three males (who themselves will mate with several females). In the non-breeding season they are often gregarious forming large flocks (sometimes with finches) roaming the countryside looking for seeds.
The Yellowhammer is still reasonably a common bird of farmland; the Corn Bunting once was, but massive population declines mean it now has a relatively restricted distribution.
Regularly Occurring Species
Pallas' Reed Bunting
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