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Emberizidae is a family of seed-eating passerine birds with distinctively finch-like bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. The New World genera formerly considered part of this family are now placed in their own family, Passerellidae. Some other New World genera have been reassigned to the tanager family, Thraupidae.

Crested Bunting (Melophus lathami) Photograph By Shantanu Kuveskar.jpg
Crested bunting
Emberiza lathami
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Emberizidae
Vigors, 1831

see text

It was hypothesized that the family Emberizidae may have originated in South America and spread first into North America before crossing into eastern Asia and continuing to move west.[1] However, a DNA sequence-based study of passerines concluded emberizids spread from North to South America.[2] However, all the New World emberizids have been placed in other families.

As with several other passerine families, the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux. Many genera in South and Central America are, in fact, more closely related to several different tanager clades.[3][4][5]



Emberizids are small birds, typically around 15 cm in length, with finch-like bills and nine primary feathers. They live in a variety of habitats, including woodland, brush, marsh, and grassland. They tend to have brown-streaked plumage. Many species have distinctive head patterns.

Behaviour and ecologyEdit

Their diet consists mainly of seeds, but may be supplemented with insects, especially when feeding their young.[6]

The habits of emberizids are similar to those of finches, with which they sometimes used to be grouped. Older sources may place some emberizids in the Fringillidae family, and the common names of some emberizids still refer to them as finches. With a few exceptions, emberizids build cup-shaped nests from grasses and other plant fibres, and are monogamous.[6]

Taxonomy and systematicsEdit

The genera of New World sparrows were split from Emberizidae as of July 5, 2017 by the American Ornithological Society; they are now considered to constitute their own family, Passerellidae.[7]

The relationships of these birds with other groups within the huge nine-primaried oscine assemblage are at this point largely unresolved. Indeed, relationships within the Emberizidae as defined here are uncertain with the possibility that each of the three main groups may not be all that closely related.

The results of a recent biochemical study[8] suggest that Melophus and Latoucheornis are included in Emberiza.

  • Genus Emberiza – typical buntings (nearly 40 species)


  1. ^ "Emberizidae". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 25 July 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  2. ^ Ericson, P. G. P.; Christidis, L.; Cooper, A.; Irestedt, M.; Jackson, J.; Johansson, U. S.; Norman, J. A. (2002-02-07). "A Gondwanan origin of passerine birds supported by DNA sequences of the endemic New Zealand wrens". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 269 (1488): 235–241. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1877. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 1690883. PMID 11839192.
  3. ^ Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, and N. K. Klein, 2002. Phylogenetic relationships and morphological diversity in Darwin's finches and their relatives. Evolution 56 (6). 1240–1252.
  4. ^ Lougheed, S.C., J.R. Freeland, P. Handford & P.T. Boag. 2000. A molecular phylogeny of warbling-finches (Poospiza): paraphyly in a Neotropical emberizid genus. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 17: 367–378.
  5. ^ Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, and N. K. Klein. 2003. Phylogenetic relationships of Neotropical honeycreepers and the evolution of feeding morphology. J. Avian Biology 34: 360–370.
  6. ^ a b Baptista, Luis F. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 210–212. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Alström, P., Olsson, U., Lei, F., Wang, H-t., Gao, W. & Sundberg, P. Phylogeny and classification of the Old World Emberizini (Aves, Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 47, pp. 960–973.

External linksEdit