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Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

“It interbreeds with the pine bunting” The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is indeed classified under the following category: Regarding its conservation status, the Yellowhammer is listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means that it is not currently facing significant threats to its population. Yellowhammers are found across a […]

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

“It interbreeds with the pine bunting”

The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is indeed classified under the following category:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Emberizidae
  • Genus: Emberiza
  • Species: Emberiza citrinella

Regarding its conservation status, the Yellowhammer is listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means that it is not currently facing significant threats to its population.

Yellowhammers are found across a wide range of locations including Asia, Eurasia, Europe, and Oceania. They inhabit various types of habitats including open woodlands, farmlands, grasslands, and scrublands.

Here are some interesting facts about the Yellowhammer:

  • Prey: Yellowhammers primarily feed on seeds, insects, and plant material, with seeds being their main prey.
  • Name of Young: The young are called chicks.
  • Group Behavior: Yellowhammers are social birds.
  • Fun Fact: They can interbreed with the pine bunting.
  • Estimated Population Size: The population size is estimated to be between 40 to 70 million individuals.
  • Biggest Threat: Habitat destruction poses the greatest threat to Yellowhammers.
  • Most Distinctive Feature: Their bright yellow heads are their most distinctive feature.
  • Distinctive Feature: They have stout, conical bills.
  • Wingspan: Yellowhammers typically have a wingspan ranging from 9 to 11.6 inches.
  • Incubation Period: The incubation period for their eggs is around 12 to 14 days.
  • Age of Fledgling: Young Yellowhammers usually fledge between 11 to 13 days after hatching.
  • Habitat: They inhabit grasslands, shrublands, and farmlands.
  • Predators: Their predators include hawks, eagles, falcons, and goshawks.
  • Diet: Yellowhammers are omnivores, but they favor starchy seeds.
  • Lifestyle: They are diurnal birds, meaning they are active during the day.
  • Favorite Food: Starchy seeds are among their favorite foods.
  • Type: Yellowhammers are birds.
  • Common Name: They are commonly known as Yellowhammers.
  • Special Features: Their conical bills are adapted for seed-eating.
  • Number of Species: There are three species within the Yellowhammer genus.
  • Location: Yellowhammers are found primarily in Eurasia.
  • Nesting Location: They build their nests on the ground, hidden under bushes and shrubs.
  • Migratory: Some Yellowhammer populations are migratory.

Physical Characteristics:

  • Color: They have brown, yellow, and white plumage.
  • Skin Type: Their bodies are covered in feathers.
  • Top Speed: Yellowhammers can reach speeds of up to 25 mph.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live for around 3.7 years.
  • Weight: They typically weigh between 0.7 to 1.3 ounces.
  • Length: Their body length ranges from 6.3 to 6.5 inches.
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: Yellowhammers typically reach sexual maturity at one year of age.

The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a sizable bunting found predominantly in Eurasia. Its habitat encompasses dry, open landscapes adorned with scattered trees and ample vegetation. Known for its social nature, the Yellowhammer forms monogamous pairs during breeding seasons and often joins large, diverse flocks for foraging. One of its distinctive traits is its regional dialects of songs, which it melodiously sings while perched on tree branches. As for its diet, this species feeds on seeds, insects, and plant material, with a preference for starchy seeds. Overall, the Yellowhammer’s habitat, diet, and social behavior make it a fascinating subject of study and observation in its native range.

5 Amazing Yellowhammer Facts

  1. Nest Protection: Yellowhammers exhibit clever nesting behavior by hiding their nests in low bushes, effectively reducing the risk of predation and ensuring the safety of their offspring.
  2. Close Relation and Interbreeding: They share a close genetic relationship with the pine bunting and are capable of interbreeding, resulting in hybrid offspring. Additionally, their songs are remarkably similar, showcasing their close evolutionary ties.
  3. Specialized Chick Diet: Yellowhammers demonstrate parental care by feeding their chicks cereal grains, which helps prepare them for a diet primarily consisting of seeds. This specialized feeding behavior ensures the health and development of their young.
  4. Territorial Competition: Male Yellowhammers employ keen listening skills to detect the distinctive calls of their rivals. This behavior is crucial for establishing and defending territories during the breeding season, ensuring reproductive success.
  5. Habitat Destruction Threat: Unfortunately, the Yellowhammer population is facing a decline primarily due to habitat destruction. This emphasizes the critical need for conservation efforts to protect their habitats and preserve their population numbers.
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These remarkable behaviors and adaptations highlight the resilience and importance of Yellowhammers in their ecosystems, underscoring the significance of conservation efforts to ensure their survival.

Where to Find the Yellowhammer

The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a widespread bunting found across Europe and Asia, inhabiting at least 50 countries including Germany, France, Poland, Russia, and Italy. It holds the distinction of being the most widespread bunting species in Europe. However, it is notably absent from Arctic regions and high mountainous areas.

While most populations of Yellowhammers spend their winters within their breeding range, those in the northern parts of their distribution migrate southward during the colder months. Interestingly, some Yellowhammer populations have been introduced to regions beyond their native range, including South Africa, New Zealand, and the Falkland Islands.

These adaptable birds thrive in dry, open habitats with some vegetation and trees. They can be commonly found in diverse environments such as farmlands, shrublands, grasslands, and forest clearings. Look for Yellowhammers perched in trees, singing their melodious songs, or foraging for food in large flocks on the ground. Their ability to inhabit a variety of landscapes makes them a familiar sight across their expansive range.

Yellowhammer Nest

Female Yellowhammers exhibit nesting behavior characterized by building their nests on or near the ground, often concealed within low bushes or other foliage for protection against predators. To construct the nest, the female meticulously forms a cup-shaped structure using various plant materials such as leaves and dry grass. Inside the cup, she lines it with soft grass and animal hair, providing a comfortable and insulating environment for her eggs and eventual hatchlings. This nesting strategy reflects the Yellowhammer’s adaptation to its habitat and its instinctual drive to safeguard its offspring from potential threats.

Scientific Name

The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) belongs to the Emberizidae family, which encompasses the buntings, a group of passerine birds native to the Old World. These birds are characterized by their seed-eating habits and conical bills. Within the Emberiza genus, which consists of 45 species of buntings, the Yellowhammer holds a prominent place.

The specific epithet “citrinella” originates from the Italian language, where it refers to a small yellow bird. This name aptly describes the Yellowhammer’s distinctive yellow plumage, particularly on its head and underparts.

There are three recognized subspecies of the Yellowhammer, each with slight variations in appearance and distribution across its range. These subspecies contribute to the overall diversity and adaptability of the species as a whole.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

The Yellowhammer is indeed a robust bunting, typically measuring between 6.3 to 6.5 inches in length and weighing approximately 0.7 to 1.3 ounces. With a wingspan ranging from 9 to 11.6 inches, it possesses a relatively broad wingspan compared to its body size.

This bird’s physique is characterized by a rotund body shape, featuring a thick neck, short beak, and a distinctive long tail. Adult males are easily distinguished by their vibrant yellow heads, contrasted against heavily streaked brown backs, rumps, and wings. Their undersides showcase a vibrant yellow hue, often accentuated by white outer tail feathers.

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In contrast, adult females exhibit a more subdued appearance, with a duller yellow coloring and heavier streaking on their crowns, breasts, and flanks. Juveniles, meanwhile, display lighter colors compared to both sexes, with pale rumps and a generally less pronounced streaking pattern.

These physical features contribute to the Yellowhammer’s unique appearance, making it easily identifiable within its range.

Migration Pattern and Timing

Yellowhammers exhibit varied migration patterns across their range, ranging from resident to partially migratory behavior. European Yellowhammers typically remain within their breeding range during the winter months, with only populations in the far northern regions migrating southward to escape harsh winter conditions.

On the other hand, Asian Yellowhammers, particularly those breeding in Russia, engage in more extensive migrations. These birds migrate southward during the winter season, with destinations including Iraq, Iran, and various parts of Central Asia. This migration pattern allows Asian Yellowhammers to access more favorable wintering grounds with milder climates and ample food resources.

These differing migration strategies reflect the Yellowhammer’s ability to adapt to seasonal changes and optimize its survival in various environments across its vast range.


Yellowhammers have a diverse diet that includes a variety of food items. When foraging on the ground, often in large flocks alongside other birds like buntings and finches, they primarily consume:

  1. Starchy Seeds: Yellowhammers have a preference for starchy seeds, which form a significant portion of their diet. These seeds can come from various grasses and cereal crops.
  2. Plant Material: They also consume various plant materials, including leaves, stems, and flowers. Common plant species in their diet may include nettle, knotgrass, chickweed, and yarrow.
  3. Insects: In addition to seeds and plant material, Yellowhammers feed on a wide range of insects, including grasshoppers, flies, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and worms. Invertebrates provide essential protein and nutrients, especially during the breeding season when adult birds need to feed their chicks.

This diverse diet allows Yellowhammers to adapt to different food sources available throughout the year, contributing to their survival and reproductive success. By consuming a mix of seeds, plant materials, and insects, they maintain their energy levels and nutritional needs across various habitats and seasons.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the Yellowhammer as “Least Concern” (LC). This classification is based on the species’ extensive range and sizable population, which does not currently meet the thresholds for “threatened” status.

However, despite being classified as Least Concern, Yellowhammers are suspected of experiencing population declines, particularly in Europe. The primary threat to their population comes from habitat destruction, primarily driven by changes in agricultural practices. Factors such as the reduction in the cultivation of cereal crops and the intensification of farmland management have significantly impacted Yellowhammer habitats, leading to declines in their numbers.

Although the species is not currently at risk of extinction, monitoring and conservation efforts are crucial to ensure that Yellowhammer populations remain stable and do not face further declines. By addressing the threats to their habitats and implementing sustainable land management practices, we can help safeguard the future of this iconic species.

What Eats the Yellowhammer?

Yellowhammers face predation from a variety of avian and mammalian predators, including sparrowhawks, lesser spotted eagles, falcons, and northern goshawks. These raptors pose a threat to adult Yellowhammers, as well as their eggs and young.

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In addition to avian predators, small mammals such as mice and other rodents are known to prey on Yellowhammer eggs and chicks. Their ground nests make them particularly vulnerable to these ground-dwelling predators.

Furthermore, corvids such as crows, jays, and magpies are notorious for raiding Yellowhammer nests and consuming their eggs and chicks. These intelligent birds are adept at locating and exploiting nests hidden in hedges or bushes.

To mitigate the risks of predation, Yellowhammers utilize protective nesting sites such as hedges or bushes, which offer some degree of concealment from predators. Additionally, males actively listen for the distinctive songs of potential threats and rivals, allowing them to remain vigilant and defend their nesting territories against intruders. Despite these adaptive strategies, predation remains a significant factor influencing Yellowhammer population dynamics.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

During the breeding season, typically beginning in April or May, Yellowhammers engage in reproductive behaviors. They are capable of reproducing when they reach one year of age. These birds form monogamous pair bonds, with males displaying courtship rituals to attract females. Courtship displays may include actions such as raising their wings and running toward the females.

Yellowhammers are known to interbreed with the pine bunting, their closest relative, which adds to the genetic diversity within their populations.

Females lay clutches of three to five white eggs, often adorned with dark lines, in nests hidden within bushes or hedges. The incubation period lasts approximately 12 to 14 days, during which the female diligently tends to the eggs. Both parents contribute to feeding the chicks once they hatch, and the young Yellowhammers typically fledge the nest around 11 to 13 days after hatching.

Yellowhammers are prolific breeders, with adults often producing two to three broods per year, contributing to their population dynamics and resilience.

While the average lifespan of a Yellowhammer is around 3.7 years, individuals can live beyond 13 years under optimal conditions, highlighting their potential for long-term survival and reproduction.


The global population of Yellowhammers is estimated to be between 40 to 70 million mature individuals. Europe, where 60% of its global range is located, harbors a significant portion of this population, with approximately 12.8 to 19.9 million breeding pairs.

Despite its large population size, Yellowhammers are experiencing a moderate decline in numbers. The primary factor driving this decline is habitat destruction, particularly due to changes in agricultural practices and the loss of suitable nesting and foraging habitats.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving and restoring Yellowhammer habitats are crucial to mitigate further population declines. By implementing sustainable land management practices and protecting key habitats, we can help ensure the continued survival of this iconic bird species.


Yellowhammers are fascinating birds known for their distinctive appearance, melodious songs, and adaptable nature. With a global population estimated between 40 to 70 million individuals, they are widespread across Europe and Asia, primarily inhabiting open country areas with scattered vegetation. Despite their large numbers, Yellowhammers face threats from habitat destruction, particularly due to changes in agricultural practices. Conservation efforts focused on habitat preservation and sustainable land management are essential to safeguarding the future of this iconic species.

Soumik SarkarS

Soumik Sarkar

I am an animal lover from India. It's a trusted website for animal lover.

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