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Cirl Bunting - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by gmax
Carso, Gorizia, north-eastern Italy, June 2008
Emberiza cirlus


15-16.5cm (6-6½ in)
Male Cirl Buntings have diagnostic black and yellow faces.
The females show hints of this same black and yellow pattern including obvious broad dark lines behind and below the eye.

Similar Species

If you are in doubt about whether you have a Cirl Bunting or a Yellowhammer, check the rump colour - grey brown on a Cirl Bunting, almost red on a Yellowhammer. Also, Cirl Buntings have a small grey shoulder patch and richer chestnut on the upperparts.


Photo © by dippers
Prawle Point, Devon, October 2008

Common in the south-west of the Western Palearctic, breeds from Iberia and Morocco north to most of France and south-west Germany, east to southern Romania and north-east Turkey. It is resident throughout its range, with no migratory populations.

Now only found in the extreme south west of England (southern Devon), mostly between Plymouth and Exeter

Extralimital records are rare, with only a handful of records north to Scotland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and the Ukraine, and south to the Canary Islands and Egypt.



There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • E. c. cirlus:
  • E. c. nigrostriata:
Photo © by Brian Dunning
Cré-sur-Loir, France, August 2013


The preferred habitat is warm, dry scrubland and low-intensity agriculture with small fields and numerous hedges with scattered large trees for song perches; also uses large gardens close to farmland.


Flocks with other seed-eaters, especially Yellowhammers.


Hops. A rather bounding flight.


Their diet consists mostly of seeds from herbs and grass for most of the year, with insects added during the breeding season.


Photo © by Wakely Sue and Simon Wakely
East Devon, December 2016

The nest is placed in a hedge or bush, and the eggs are incubated for 14 days. There can be 2 or 3 broods.


Call "zit"


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. ARKive
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  4. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved December 2016)

Recommended Citation

External Links

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