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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Buntings/Emberizidae

Rock Bunting/Emberiza cia - Male

L 15-16½ cm. Breeds on steep, often boulder-strewn or rocky, open mountain slopes immediately above treeline (often below 1500 m in Europe) with grass and herbage along with thorn bushes and scattered trees, sometimes in glades and alpine meadows just below treeline; locally in coastal regions down to sea-level. Chiefly resident, but in winter usually descends to lower levels. Not really shy, but unobtrusive and is easily overlooked when a not singing.
IDENTIFICATION: Fairly big, short-winged but long-tailed. Identified in all plumages by contrasty head markings, with dark stripes along crown-side, through eye and framing cheek, combined with ash-grey throat and ash-grey breast (mostly on male), rusty-brown (or on young female orange-buff) belly, white outer tail-corners, and grey lesser wing-coverts. Lower mandible light lead-grey. Rump unstreaked red-brown. Sexes similar. - Adult male: Black head markings, whitish supercilium, unspotted pale lead-grey on throat and breast, and unstreaked flanks. - Female: Occasionally inseparable from male in field, but many can be told by less extensive grey on breast, light streaking on lower throat, breast and flanks, and more diffuse head pattern.
VOICE: Call a short, sharp ‘tsi’, also a drawn-out ‘tsiii’, at times faintly downslurred and then rather Reed Bunting-like, ‘tsiü’; when nervous, fine twittering series, ‘tir’r’r’r’ (like begging young White Wagtails). Song highpitched and clear, a melodic verse with distinct scale changes and often typically tentative introduction and uneven rhythm, e.g. ‘sütt, titt-itt, svi chacha- sivi-süasüa, sitt sivisürrr si’.

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