Jenny Bunting Biography & Facts
The yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a passerine bird in the bunting family that is native to Eurasia and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. Most European birds remain in the breeding range year-round, but the eastern subspecies is partially migratory, with much of the population wintering further south. The male yellowhammer has a bright yellow head, streaked brown back, chestnut rump, and yellow under parts. Other plumages are duller versions of the same pattern. The yellowhammer is common in open areas with some shrubs or trees, and forms small flocks in winter. Its song has a rhythm like "A little bit of bread and no cheese". The song is very similar to that of its closest relative, the pine bunting, with which it interbreeds.
Breeding commences mainly in April and May, with the female building a lined cup nest in a concealed location on or near the ground. The three to five eggs are patterned with a mesh of fine dark lines, giving rise to the old name for the bird of "scribble lark" or "writing lark". The female incubates the eggs for 12–14 days prior to hatching, and broods the altricial downy chicks until they fledge 11–13 days later. Both adults feed the chick in the nest and raise two or three broods each year. The nest may be raided by rodents or corvids, and the adults are hunted by birds of prey. Yellowhammers feed on the ground, usually in flocks outside the breeding season. Their diet is mainly seeds, supplemented by invertebrates in the breeding season. Changes to agricultural practices have led to population declines in western Europe, but its large numbers and huge range mean that the yellowhammer is classed as being of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
This conspicuous yellow bird has inspired poems by Robert Burns and John Clare, and its characteristic song has influenced musical works by Beethoven and Messiaen. Children's writer Enid Blyton helped to popularise the standard English representation of the song.
The yellowhammer was described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae under its current scientific name. Emberiza is derived from the Old German Embritz, a bunting, and citrinella is the Italian for a small yellow bird. The English name is thought to have come from Ammer, another German word for a bunting, and was first recorded in 1553 as yelambre.The bird family Emberizidae contains a single genus Emberiza, with around 40 members, that are confined to the Old World. Within its genus, the yellowhammer is most closely related to the pine bunting, with which it forms a superspecies; they have at times been considered as one species. The white-capped and cirl buntings are also near relatives of the species pair. Where their ranges meet, the yellowhammer and pine bunting interbreed; the yellowhammer is dominant, and the hybrid zone is moving further east.
There are currently 3 recognised subspecies of yellowhammer:
E. c. citrinella (Linnaeus, 1758), the nominate subspecies, which occurs in southeast England and most of Europe east to the northwestern corner of Russia and western Ukraine.
E. c. caliginosa (Clancey, 1940) is the form found in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Great Britain (except southeast England).
E. c. erythrogenys (Brehm, 1855) breeds from Russia, central Ukraine and the eastern Balkans eastwards to Siberia and northwest Mongolia, and also has isolated populations to the east of the Black Sea and in the Caucasus.Description
The yellowhammer is a large bunting, 16–16.5 cm (6.3–6.5 in) long, with a 23–29.5 cm (9.1–11.6 in) wingspan; it weighs 20–36.5 g (0.71–1.29 oz). The male of the nominate subspecies E. c. citrinella has a bright yellow head, heavily streaked brown back, rufous rump, yellow under parts, and white outer tail feathers. The female is less brightly coloured, and more streaked on the crown, breast, and flanks. Both sexes are less strongly marked outside the breeding season, when the dark fringes on new feathers obscure the yellow plumage. The juvenile is much duller and less yellow than the adults, and often has a paler rump.After breeding, adults have a complete moult, which takes at least eight weeks; males acquire more yellow in the plumage each time they moult. Juveniles have a partial moult not long after fledging, replacing the head, body, and some covert feathers.Differences between the subspecies are small and geographically gradual. On average, the male of E. c. caliginosa is slightly smaller and darker than the same sex of the nominate subspecies, and also has more streaking on its back, a greenish tint to the yellow of the head and more chestnut on the flanks. The male of the eastern form, E. c. erythrogenys, is paler and less streaked than E. c. citrinella. Its flanks, undertail and wing bars are usually whiter, and its crown and throat are brighter yellow. Distinguishing females of the three subspecies using plumage features is not usually possible.Females and juveniles, especially of the pale eastern subspecies, E. c. erythrogenys, may be confused with pine buntings, but they always have a yellow tint to their plumage, a paler rufous rump, and more uniform upperparts than that species. Young and female yellowhammers can be distinguished from cirl buntings by the grey-brown rump of the latter species. Male hybrids with pine buntings are typically white-faced and have some yellow on the head, under parts or flight feathers, but females are usually indistinguishable from yellowhammers.
The song of the cock yellowhammer is a series of short notes, gradually increasing in volume and followed by one or two more protracted notes. It is often represented as "A little bit of bread and no cheese", and the full version can be confused with the almost identical song of the pine bunting. If the final notes are omitted, confusion with the cirl bunting is possible. Other vocalisations include a zit contact call, a see alarm, and a trilled tirrr given in flight.Yellowhammer males learn their songs from their fathers, and over time, regional dialects have developed, with minor differences to the conclusion of the basic song; all are mutually recognised by birds from different areas. Each male has an individual repertoire of song variants within its regional dialect; females tend to mate with males that share their dialect, and prefer those with the largest repertoires.The pine bunting and yellowhammer are so closely related that each responds to the other's song. The male yellowhammer's song is more attractive to females, and is one reason for the dominance of that species where the ranges overlap.
Distribution and habitat
The yellowhammer breeds across the Palearctic between the 16–20 °C (61–68 °F) July isotherms. It is the commonest and most widespread European bunting, although it is absent from high mountains, Arctic regions, the western Netherlands, most of Iberia .... Discover the Jenny Bunting popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Jenny Bunting books.