Thursday, 20 September 2012

Corn bunting

Miliaria calandra

Photo by Lior Kislev (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
corn bunting (en); trigueirão (pt); bruant proyer (fr); triguero (es); grauammer (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae

These birds are mostly found in Europe, from Scotland and Denmark south to Portugal, Spain and Italy, and east to Poland, the Ukraine and Turkey. They are also found in the Canary islands, in north-western Africa from Morocco to Tunisia and in central Asia from southern Kazakhstan to Afghanistan. The corn bunting is mostly resident but some population migrate south to winter in Lybia, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.

These birds are 16-19 cm long and have a wingspan of 27-30 cm. They weigh 35-60 g.

Corn buntings are found in temperate grasslands and pastures, steppes and also arable land and mixed farmland. They avoid forested areas. This species is found from sea level up to an altitude of 500 m.

They are primarily granivorous, taking grass seeds and agricultural grain, but they also eat other plant materials and will hunt insects to feed their young during the breeding season.

Corn buntings breed in February-July. They are polygynous, with each male mating with up to 18 females during the course of a breeding season. Each female builds its nest, a shallow depression on the ground, lined with dried grasses. There she lays 2-6 reddish eggs with large brown stains, which she incubates alone for 10-14 days. The male may sometimes help feed the chicks who fledge 9-12 days after hatching. 

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 30-130 million individuals. In Europe, where 50-75% of the population is found, the corn bunting has been declining at a moderate rate since the 1980s. This decline is particularly serious in north-western Europe, but it is also taking place in central Europe and is believed to be caused by changing agricultural practices and climate change. Extensive use of pesticides has reduced the numbers of arable weed species, an important food source for the adults, and insects, vital for rearing chicks.

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