[order] Passeriformes | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza cirlus | [UK] Cirl Bunting | [FR] Bruant zizi | [DE] Zaunammer | [ES] Escribano Soteņo | [IT] Zigolo nero | [NL] Cirlgors

Cirlgors determination

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Medium-sized bunting, recalling Yellowhammer but with rather smaller, slighter, and more compact form most obvious in often flatter-headed and more hunched appearance. Plumage pattern also recalls Yellowhammer but shows at all times dull greyish-olive to greyish-brown rump. Adult ( colourful, but much less yellow than Yellowhammer, with striking grey-olive crown, black eye-stripe and bib, yellow supercilium and collar, and russet-sided olive chest. ) much less easy to distinguish from Yellowhammer, but ground-colour of plumage more buff than yellow with more linear face pattern, dark greyish-olive (not brown) lesser coverts, and finer streaks below.

Breeds within Mediterranean and adjoining oceanic temperate zones of south-west Palearctic; further limited by highly selective climatic, topographical, and ecological requirements. Except in England, is bounded by 20°C July isotherm. Extends to 17°C isotherm in southern Britain but perhaps more importantly limited as British resident to areas with mean January temperature above 6°C, and either at least 1500 hrs of sunshine or less than 105 cm of rainfall per year; other limiting factors are wind, night-frosts, altitude, slope, aspect, and exposure. In addition to such combination of sunshine, low rainfall, and mild winters, has equally exacting ecological requirements. These take somewhat different forms in north and south of range, although preference for benign, often sloping, and sunny terrain is general. In Britain, in contrast to Yellowhammer, avoids extensive open farmland, being confined mainly to small fields with plenty of hedgerow growth and tall trees, elms being favoured before their widespread demise through Dutch elm disease. Where such sites have been taken by human settlements their fringes are occupied, including large gardens and orchards.

Emberiza cirlus is a widespread resident across much of southern Europe, which constitutes >95% of its global range. Its European breeding population is very large (>2,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although the trend of the Spanish population during 1990-2000 was unknown, other key populations in France and Croatia increased, and the Italian population remained stable. The species hence increased moderately overall

Seeds, mostly of grass or cereals; invertebrates in breeding season. Feeds almost wholly on ground, sometimes on stems of grasses or low herbs, most commonly on trampled or grazed grass in fields, by tracks, at vineyard edges, and similar weedy places, rarely on bare soil; in winter, very often on rough pasture and stubble.

Emberiza cineracea breeds on dry rocky slopes and uplands with shrubby vegetation and sometimes conifers2. The nominate race breeds on the islands of Chios, Lesbos, Skyros and probably Ikaria and Samos islands, Greece (100-250 pairs1), and east and south to Develi and Kilis, Turkey. E. c. semenowi occurs from the Gaziantep area of south-east Turkey to the border with Iraq (breeding unproven but possible) and west Iran (less than 100 pairs in the Zagros mountains). It is migratory, wintering in dry open country with short grass, semi-desert, low rocky hills, bare cultivated land and dry scrub, often in coastal areas, in north-east Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, south-west Saudi Arabia and Yemen2. Migrating birds are regularly recorded in lowland agricultural land and semi-deserts in Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Authority Territories, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates. The sizes of historical and current populations are poorly known, but the population is currently estimated at 700-5,350 pairs with no obvious decline in numbers or range. Changes in grazing pressure by sheep and goats could affect population size. High grazing pressure could result in the trampling of nests whilst too little grazing could reduce the area of open feeding sites1. Remaining habitat in western Turkey is being rapidly developed for tourism. There is very little habitat loss in Greece1 or central and eastern Turkey. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Extended throughout range. Devon (south-west England): first clutches started 1st week of May, exceptionally late April. Latest clutches started towards end of August. North-central France: late April, broods usual, often 3. The nest is built Low down and well hidden in dense tree, shrub, hedge, or creeper; often on wall behind vegetation; rather uncommonly on ground. Nest: rather bulky and untidy; foundation of rough stalks, roots, grass, leaves, and moss, lined with fine stems and much hair but not feathers. Clutch 3-4 (2-5), incubation 12-13 days with a fledging period of 11-13 days.

Most populations essentially sedentary, but many leave colder parts of range in continental Europe in winter. Longest movements recorded up to c. 600-700 km, mainly in southerly and westerly directions.