Family Old World Buntings (Emberizidae)

Least Concern

Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia)


French: Bruant fou German: Zippammer Spanish: Escribano montesino

Emberiza Cia


, 1766,

southern Europe = lower Austria


Formerly treated as conspecific with E. godlewskii. Geographical variation mainly clinal, races grading into each other; birds from N Europe tend to be darker than those from S Europe and C Asia, but differences between races generally slight. See also E. godlewskii (below). Other proposed races are callensis (from Bom Jesus, Braga, in N Portugal), africana (Spain and Morocco E to Tunisia) and hordei (Greece to SC Turkey and Levant), all synonymized with nominate; and prageri (Crimea and Caucasus), mokrzechyi (extreme W Caucasus), serebrowskii (Altai and Tarbagatay) and lasdini (Pamirs), all synonymized with par. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. c. cia Linnaeus, 1766 – C & S Europe E to Turkey and Levant, and N Africa (Morocco E to Tunisia).
  • E. c. par E. J. O. Hartert, 1904 – Crimea and Caucasus and E Turkey E to Iran, and C Asia E to W Mongolian Altai, and S to N & C Afghanistan and N Baluchistan (Pakistan).
  • E. c. stracheyi F. Moore, 1856 – NW Himalayas from Pakistan (W to Afghan border), Baltistan and Kashmir E to N India (Kumaon), extreme SW China (SW Xizang) and W Nepal.
  • E. c. flemingorum J. Martens, 1972 – W & C Nepal.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–16·5 cm; 17–29 g. Fairly large bunting, with proportionately short wing and long tail. Male nominate race in fresh plumage has pale ash-greyish head,... read more


    Song, normally from rock or top of tree, a melodic verse with sudden scale changes, and sometimes... read more


    Sunny places on rocky slopes in hills and high mountains, ravines, and in clearings in conifer... read more

    Food and feeding

    Outside breeding season feeds mainly on seeds of herbs and other plants, and during breeding period mostly on invertebrates. Among... read more


    Season from late Mar or Apr to Jul–Aug, occasionally to mid-Sept, peak of egg-laying in most of range during May; sometimes two... read more


    N populations partly migratory, some moving short to medium distance S in cold winters. In S of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common; rather sparsely distributed. European breeding population estimated at c. 1,300,000 pairs. Large decline recorded during 1970–... read more

    Recommended citation

    Copete, J.L. (2020). Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).