The name Bunting is derived from the Old
English "Buntyle", Scottish "Buntlin", a word of uncertain origin.
Professor Skeat in his Etymological Dictionary of 1882 suggested a connection
with the old verb, which still existed as a dialectic form, bunten = to
butt; but this is not very apparent. He also cited the Scottish word buntin which means short
and thick, or plump. This however, seems as likely to have been derived from the bird, the slightly clumsy figure of the true Bunting being quite evident to any observer. Any connection with the German bunt, meaning colourful, or the Dutch bonte, meaning pied or variegated, is said to be most unlikely.
The Bunting is the common English name of the bird
called by Linnaeus Emberiza miliaria, but now used in a general sense for
all the members of the Family Emberizidae, which are closely related to
the Fringillidae (FINCH). They are mainly migratory birds and
tend to inhabit the ground more than finches.
Buntings are present in all the continents except
in Oceania and the Antarctic. There are around 73 genera and 308 species
of Bunting. The classification of some species remains in debate,
some being at times grouped with the finches.
The Buntings occupy an enormous diversity of habitats,
in temperate climates, tropical and subtropical and polar regions.
These include barren desert areas, agricultural zones, forest, tundra and
They are quite small birds, the average size being
about 10 to 25 cetimeters in length. The males are a little larger that
the females and, in species where gender dimorphism is present, have more
brilliant colors. The beak is short and conical, adapted to feeding on
seeds and insects.
Reproduction occurs in the Summer or at the height
of the rainy season. The majority of the species form monogamous couples
but there are exceptions. The nest is constructed on the ground or in trees,
the female bunting laying between 3 to 5 eggs of white or bluish color,
which she alone incubates over a period of 11 to 14 days. The chicks become
independent in less than one month, reaching their reproductive maturity
around the end of their first year.
The Buntings are quite territorial birds.
Only the male bunting sings a song, which he delivers in paired notes.
The IUCN does not (as at 2006) list any species of bunting as in
danger of extinction, but populations of buntings are in decline on a world-wide
scale as a result of the loss of habitat and deforestation. It is
believed that Buntings originally evolved in the American continent, having
migrated to Asia and Europe via the Bering Straits.