Boring bird looking like a big female House Sparrow with jangling song but very sexy - males sometimes have harems of ten or more females.
There are quite large differences in size between the sexes but the birds look very similar - heavily streaked brown with a big conical bill. They feed on seeds and modern farming methods seem to exclude it. This is the biggest bunting in Europe and they breed in all areas except the Northern third.
Their song has been studied in detail (as have their sexual antics) and some local dialects persist for several years. Subtle differences are recorded even over as short a distance as five kms. British and Irish (almost extinct) populations have declined very seriously over the last 30 or 40 years and the previous wide distribution has been reduced very considerably. There may be as few as 20,000 territories left.
Big, fat, streaked bunting of open country.
Length 180 mm Closed wing 100 mm Weight 50 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead