Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Seen at St Levan, Cornwall, recently, an Ortolan bunting.

Taxonomic name: Emberiza hortulana.

An interesting, shy little bird it was considered a delicacy in France and parts of Asia. Hunting and eating this small songbird is now banned in France, but hunting had already led to the birds catastrophic decline.

Its breeding range is across Europe and up into the Arctic circle, Scandinavia and on into western parts of Asia. It can be seen around Britain most years as a migrant, although it is fairly rare, the most likely time to be seen around British shores in on its spring migration at the beginning of May. But it can be spotted on its autumn migration like this year where it has been seen from Suffolk to the Isles of Scilly.

Its size is about 4 inches (10.16cm) long and weighs approximately 4 ounces (113.6Ml).

In its characteristics it closely resembles the yellowhammer, but much duller; the Ortolan’s head, for instance, is olive green and grey which extends down to its throat, it has a pale yellow throat area. The under part of the body is pinkish and beige, the upper body is brown with black streaks through it.  The bill is conical and stout, the colour is a pale pink and it has a yellow ring around each eye.

The female is duller than the male and young birds have a darker, streakier plumage than the adult.

The song of the cockbird resembles that of the yellowhammer.

Its feeding habits are mainly of any ground feeding small bird which includes beetles, seeds, etc.


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Kevin ONeill


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