Identifying Features: The Corn Bunting is a big, pale, streaky-brown bunting. It is most similar to the Skylark, but with a thicker bill and no crest. Larger than other buntings, but this group can be difficult to tell apart.
Average Length: 18 cm
Average Lifespan: 7 years
Average Wingspan: 29 cm
This farmland bird is the largest of the buntings. The corn bunting is a bulky, streaky, brown bird. Grey-brown above and paler below, similar to the skylark, but with a thicker bill and no crest. Both tail and wing feathers are tipped greyish-white. Male and female corn buntings look similar, but the male is larger. Juveniles resemble adults but they are paler and have less streaked underparts.
You will often see this polygamous bird perched proudly on a hedge, post or wire, you will hear its distinctive song; which is described as sounding like a bunch of jangling keys. Interestingly, male corn buntings may mate with up to 18 different females in a season!
In the hierarchy of the corn bunting world, males with more mates will sing more often than males with only one mate.
Corn buntings will seek out places where they can find seeds, such as rotational set-aside, harvested root crops, winter stubbles, weeds in the crop margins and in areas of split grain or places where cereals are fed to outdoor cattle. During the winter months the corn bunting will join mixed flocks of buntings, finches and sparrows to feed.
Leading up to, and during breeding season they will take insects from these areas to feed themselves and their chicks. Breeding success relates directly to the availability of insect food, which is usually greater in crops that receive fewer insecticides and herbicides.
Nests are built on the ground, by the female. She chooses rough grassy margins or arable crops and will incubate the eggs by herself. Sometimes the male will help to feed the hatched chicks, or he may choose to stay near to the nest, continuously singing! Breeding starts from late spring to early July. The eggs are white, with darker markings.
Chicks fledge about 9-13 days after hatching but are not able to fly just yet. The chicks will spend their time hidden in thick vegetation near the nest. Because corn buntings are a late nesting species, their nests can be destroyed during harvesting or cutting.
Did you know, the corn bunting is not a migratory bird in the UK; it is so sedentary, in fact, that males who are just 30km apart sing with different 'dialects'