Lapland Bunting: Sparrow-sized. Black head with red-brown nape and white eyebrow and line on side of head. Black upper breast and sides, rest of underparts white. Outer tail feathers also white. Back dark brown with black and white streaking, wings black and dark brown with two white wing bars.
Range and Habitat
Lapland Bunting: Winter visitor and scarce breeder in Britain. Birds are found along east coasts of Scotland and England. Though birds can be seen from autumn through late spring, highest concentrations are visible during the winter months. Can be found in coastal wetlands and wet grasslands.
Most of the small birds such as finches, gnatcatchers, and sparrows are members of the one hundred and eighteen families found in the largest taxonomic order of birds; the PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez).
The sparrows and related birds are placed in the Emberizidae (pronounced ehm-beh-RIH-zih-dee), a group of one hundred and sixty-three species in twenty-six genera found in Eurasia, Africa, and the New World (IOC World Bird List, version 2.3).
Thirty-five species of buntings in ten genera are found in Europe. In addition to buntings, the Yellowhammer and longspurs also belong to this family.
Members of this family are known for their terrestrial behaviour, cheery songs, and in the case of many, challenges to their identification due to similarities in the appearance of several species.
Members of the Emberizidae are small, plump birds with short, finch-like bills adapted to cracking open seeds. Their wings are generally short and their tails and legs average in length.
Male buntings tend to have handsome plumage that can be streaked with brown, black, and white. They may also often have patches of bright rufous, yellow, grey, or rusty brown. Their heads typically have bold markings. The exception is the Corn Bunting, a species that in being a dull, brown and buff-white-streaked bird, has plumage similar to most female buntings.
At least one species of bunting can be found in most every habitat in Europe. Most are birds of non-forest habitats such as the thick undergrowth at forest openings and edges, scrub, and second growth.
There are European members of this family that migrate a short distance within and near Europe (Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, and Rock Bunting), and long distances to tropical Africa (Ortolan Bunting) and Asia (Black-headed and Yellow-breasted Buntings).
Outside of the breeding season, most buntings and other members of this family flock together for protection from predators. All are generally terrestrial birds that forage on the ground for seeds and arthropods.
Buntings in Europe are for the most part common birds although some species, such as the Corn Bunting, have declined because of habitat destruction. The Cinereous Bunting, a species with a very limited range in Turkey and Greece, has declined to the point of being considered near-threatened and the Ortolan Bunting has disappeared entirely from several areas.
The Ortolan Bunting of southern Europe is unfortunately a main ingredient of a gourmet dish in France whereby the birds are fattened, dipped in Armagnac, and roasted whole. In addition to this being a revolting practice for birders, taking Ortolan Buntings from the wild could be detrimental to their populations. Although gains have been made to better protect this bird in France (in 2007 the French government finally agreed to enforce laws that prohibit the capture of this species) it is still NOT against the law to eat them there.