Oatmeal is a small bird of the passerine family, which stands out among other birds with a bright yellow color of the breast and head. For the first time, the bird was described and qualified by the famous Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in the middle of the 18th century.
Among ornithologists, oatmeal is known under the Latin name “citrinella”, which means “lemon” in Russian. As you might guess, such an unusual name arose due to the yellow color of the bird.
Origin of the species and description
Despite the fact that the bird received a scientific classification in 1758, it has been known since ancient times. The fossilized remains of a bird and oatmeal eggs were found in Germany and they date back to the 5th millennium BC.
The passerine family, which includes oatmeal, is considered one of the largest in the feathered world. However, the bird has its own individual features that distinguish it from the usual sparrow.
Features of oatmeal are as follows:
- the size of the bird is in the range of 15-18 centimeters;
- the weight of the bird in its natural habitat does not exceed 30 grams;
- males and females are colored differently;
- the chest, chin and upper part of the head of the bunting have a large number of yellow (sometimes golden) feathers;
- the chest of the bird can be motley;
- bunting has a long tail (up to 5 centimeters), which is not typical for most passerines.
The bird molts twice a year. The first stage of molting occurs in the spring. Males are covered with bright yellow feathers necessary to attract females. The brighter the male bunting, the easier it is for him to attract a female.
In autumn (approximately September-October), the bright coloring disappears and the plumage becomes dark yellow, almost brown. In winter, it is almost impossible to distinguish between a male and a female, since they have the same color.
Appearance and Features
The appearance and size of buntings depend on the subspecies to which the birds belong. To date, scientists distinguish 6 large types of oatmeal:
Reed. A distinctive feature of this species of birds is that they settle and make nests on the banks of rivers and lakes, the banks of which are overgrown with reeds or reeds. Actually, this is where the name of the bird species came from. Most often, cane buntings live in southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal) and in African countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. And if the birds nesting in Europe fly to Africa for the winter, the inhabitants of Africa live their whole lives in one place, not bothering themselves with long flights.
Polar. Buntings of this type live in regions with a cold climate. Individuals of the polar bunting were seen in the territory of central Siberia and Mongolia. This type of bird is distinguished by its small size (up to 12 centimeters) and unpretentiousness in food. For wintering, polar buntings fly to the southern regions of China and return to nesting sites only at the end of April or beginning of May.
Prosyanka. One of the most numerous subspecies of oatmeal. The weight of the bird reaches 50 centimeters, and the dimensions can exceed 20 grams. Some scientists tend to consider the millet a separate bird species, but most ornithologists continue to classify the millet as a variety of buntings. An important feature of the birds is that the males and females of the millet do not have a difference in color. These birds live in the Krasnodar Territory of Russia and the Rostov Region, as well as in the north of the African continent.
Yellow-browed. The only species of bunting that nests in the coniferous forests of Siberia. It is distinguished by its large size (weight up to 18 grams) and a black head, on which yellow brow ridges stand out. Wintering yellow-browed bunting flies to India or the warm Chinese islands.
Remez. One of the most nomadic types of oatmeal. The main nesting place for the bird is the forests of Scandinavia and the European part of Russia, and for the winter it flies to South Asia. Some birds of this species manage to fly about 5 thousand kilometers in a month! The color of the bird is also very unusual. Remez bunting has a black head and a perfectly white neck that contrasts with the color of the rest of the plumage.
Common bunting. Lives throughout the Eurasia continent, with the exception of the Arctic regions and mountain ranges above one kilometer high. The peculiarity of this subspecies of oatmeal is that it is conditionally nomadic. Simply put, whether birds fly away for the winter or not depends on their specific habitat.
For example, buntings living in Russia fly to Spain or African countries for the winter, while those nesting in the Crimea or Sochi do not fly away for the winter at all.
Now you know exactly what bunting looks like. Let’s see where this bird lives.
Where does the bunting live?
Birds are common on all continents (with the exception of Antarctica), but the largest number of them live in Europe, in the Russian Federation and New Zealand.
Interesting fact: Two decades ago, there were no oatmeal in New Zealand. They were brought intentionally, but no one thought that the birds would breed so quickly. New Zealand’s surprisingly mild climate, an abundance of food and water, and a complete absence of natural predators have all contributed to the fact that the number of birds is growing exponentially, displacing budgerigars and finches.
Even harsh natural conditions are not a hindrance for these cheerful birds. Suffice it to say that they live on the territory of the Kola Peninsula, Denmark and Finland, and these regions and countries are famous for long winters and short summers.
In recent years, birds have been very comfortable in the Caucasus Mountains and in the Krasnodar Territory of Russia. The numerous nature reserves of the Caucasus Mountains and the region’s warm climate are ideal for bunting. The birds very quickly settled throughout the entire Caucasus Range and up to the foothills of Iran.
The rapid spread of the habitat of birds is facilitated by the fact that buntings are not afraid of humans and are able to nest even in the immediate vicinity of railways and high-voltage transmission lines.
What does oatmeal eat?
nutrition. They feed on large quantities of plant seeds and forage cereals with equal success.
Most often birds prefer:
- green peas;
In order to efficiently collect seeds and cereals, oatmeal has a short but strong beak . Thus, the bird guts the spikelets very quickly and swallows the seeds. In just a couple of minutes, the bird is able to cope with a spike of wheat or select psyllium seeds.
For several months of the year, oatmeal needs protein food, and then the bird begins to hunt insects. To catch flying insects, the bird does not have enough flight speed and dexterity, and only terrestrial insects go for food. Bunting successfully catches grasshoppers, mayflies, caddisflies, medium-sized spiders, wood lice, caterpillars and gaping butterflies.
The need for protein food is due to the fact that it is necessary for laying eggs and feeding chicks. Therefore, birds begin to catch insects about a month before laying eggs. Thus, they ensure the strength of the egg shell and guarantee the normal development of the embryos.
After the young flies away from the nest, the need for protein food disappears and the oatmeal stops catching insects, again switching to a vegetarian diet.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Oatmeal feels good on the edges of large forests, in light forests, as well as in forest-steppes. Often the bird can be found on river floodplains, along roads and even near power lines. Bunting thrives best in deep grass or bushes where it is easy to hide, nest or find food.
Bunting feels confident in the air, is capable of long flights and is able to climb to a considerable height. But on the ground the bird is also not lost. It moves quite quickly on the ground, is able to move quickly in search of food and is agile when catching insects. Oatmeal very quickly gets used to a person and is absolutely not lost in his presence. In search of food, birds can fly into gardens, summer cottages and even cities, if the need arises.
Birds spend most of the day looking for food, and therefore buntings are often found in bushes or tall grass. Buntings are not flocking birds, they spend most of the year, divided into pairs, but live in close proximity to each other, sometimes arranging nests a few meters from each other.
Only with the approach of the axis, buntings huddle in flocks along 40-50 birds and go to warm countries. Buntings often join finches and travel long distances with them.
Interesting fact: Male buntings are the first to leave the nesting area, but they are also the first to return. Females fly away only after a few days (and sometimes weeks), and it is still not clear what this fact is connected with.
Social structure and reproduction
Buntings are rare birds that are able to breed two offspring per season. This is facilitated by a short period of incubation of eggs and a fast metabolism of chicks, which very quickly become winged.
The first to return to nesting sites are males and often this happens even before the first snow melts. After a few weeks, the females return and pairs begin to form. Birds do not have stable relationships, and, as a rule, buntings form new pairs every year.
To attract females, males use not only bright yellow plumage, but also beautiful, loud singing. Usually, the pair is formed by the beginning of May and is accepted to build a nest together. Tall grass, shrubs and even well-warmed areas of the earth are chosen as nesting sites.
During the period of incubation of chicks and their maturation, buntings lead a very secretive lifestyle and it is very difficult to track them even with the use of special equipment. The chicks hatch from the eggs in two weeks. At the same time, they are not naked, but covered with down, which in a few weeks transforms into feathers.
Only the male is engaged in feeding the family, since the female spends most of the time in the nest. It is during this period that buntings hunt insects and bring them to the nest. At first, the male feeds the chicks with food digested in the goiter, but after a few weeks he brings the whole prey.
Within a month after birth, the chicks become winged and gradually begin to forage for food on their own. Without waiting for the chicks to finally fly out of the nest, the male and female begin new mating games and prepare to incubate the second brood.
Natural enemies of buntings
The bird has many natural enemies. In particular, such feathered predators as hawks, kites, gyrfalcons and owls prey on oatmeal. Due to the fact that the bunting is not very agile in the air, they are easy prey for aerial hunters. The only thing that saves oatmeal is caution, the ability to hide in bushes and tall grass, and also the fact that the bird does not rise too high.
On the ground, oatmeal is no less dangerous. The maximum height of a bird’s nest is about a meter. Consequently, all types of terrestrial predators (including domestic cats) can easily eat eggs or young chicks. Quite often, foxes and badgers specifically hunt down bunting nests and eat eggs and chicks. Due to their small size, the birds cannot prevent this in any way, although the male tries to protect the nesting site.
Modern chemistry used in agricultural holdings can also harm the bird. Feeding on grain treated with chemicals, birds are poisoned and die before they leave offspring.
Interesting fact: Humans have done a lot of harm to oatmeal in recent years. Fried oatmeal is considered an exotic and highly desirable dish in many European restaurants. Since the bird has a tiny weight, it is placed in a cage set in a dark room. In a state of stress, oatmeal begins to eat continuously and in a few days increases its weight by 3-4 times.
Then the bird is drowned in red wine and fried whole with the entrails. The cost of one such fried bird can reach up to 200 euros!
Population and species status
The exact number of buntings is unknown to ornithologists. According to rough estimates, there are from 30 to 70 million individuals in the world, so the extinction or a sharp decrease in the number of birds is not threatened.
But over the past 10 years, the number of birds nesting in Europe has sharply decreased. This is due to the fact that birds began to be used for food. For example, in France they caught all the birds and for several years in a row oatmeal was on the menu of all the country’s leading restaurants. According to scientists, 50-60 thousand oatmeal are consumed annually, and this significantly slows down the growth of the population as a whole.
In 2010, a special declaration was adopted in the EU countries, according to which it is forbidden:
- catching oatmeal for fattening and subsequent killing;
- destroying bird nests or collecting them for collection;
- buy and sell birds;
- make stuffed buntings.
These measures reduced the number of buntings caught, but did not completely protect the birds. In some provinces of France, birds of this species have become rare and are almost never found. By and large, the deserted regions of Siberia and Mongolia are one of the few regions where oatmeal feel safe and are not threatened by anything other than natural enemies created by nature itself.
Oatmeal have a very bright color and are distinguished by sonorous and pleasing to the ear singing. In addition, they are of great benefit by catching harmful insects and eating the seeds of weed plants. In addition, oatmeal can be kept at home as a songbird, and it will delight you with its singing for several years.