Pine Bunting

Information about the Bird Pine Bunting

The pine bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos) is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a group most modern authors now separate from the finches, Fringillidae.

The genus name Emberiza is from Old German Embritz, a bunting. The specific leucocephalos is from Ancient Greek leukos, "whites", and kephalos, "headed".
The pine bunting is a robust 16-17.5-centimetre bird, with a thick seed-eater's bill. The male has a white crown and cheeks, and a chestnut forehead and throat, and a heavily streaked brown back. The female is much duller and is more streaked on its undersides. Non-breeding plumage is like that of a yellowhammer, but with all the yellow replaced by white. Its song and calls are like those of the yellowhammer.
The pine bunting breeds across much of temperate Asia, migrating south to central Asia, north India and southern China in winter. It is common in all sorts of open land with some scrub or trees, including cultivation, but has a greater preference for open forest (usually pines) than the closely related yellowhammer. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe, but often winters in north-east Italy and Tuscany.
Hybrids between pine bunting and yellowhammer show a mixture of characters. One such bird, a vagrant in Suffolk, England in 1982, the "Sizewell bunting", is documented and illustrated with photographs in British Birds
Some doubt has been cast upon male birds which appear to all intents and purposes to be pure pine buntings, but show yellow primary fringes. Previously, in Britain, these were regarded as potentially hybrid birds, and not accepted by the British Birds Rarities Committee. However, since 2004, BBRC has regarded these birds as acceptable if they also meet the following conditions:
The pine bunting's natural food consists seeds, and when feeding young, insects. The nest is on the ground. Four to six eggs are laid, which show the hair-like markings characteristic of buntings.

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