Corn bunting

Corn Bunting

©Luke Massey/2020VISION

Corn bunting

Scientific name: Emberiza calandra
Like many of our farmland birds, the corn bunting has declined in number in recent years. Spot this streaky brown, thick-billed bird singing from a wire or post - it sounds just like a set of jangling keys!

Species information


Length: 18cm
Wingspan: 29cm
Weight: 41-53g
Average lifespan: 2-3 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


The corn bunting is a sparrow-sized, streaky brown bird of hedgerows and farmland that feeds on seeds and invertebrates. In the winter, it will join mixed flocks of buntings, finches and sparrows to feed on seeds on farmland. Male corn buntings are often seen perched on top of bushes singing loudly - a song that sounds just like a jangling set of keys. Male corn buntings may mate with up to 18 different females in a season. The female builds her grass nest in rough grassy margins or arable crops and incubates the eggs by herself. The male may help to feed the chicks once they have hatched.

How to identify

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. It is larger than other buntings, but this group can be difficult to tell apart.


Widespread in the lowlands of England and Scotland. Absent from Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

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'.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.