Yellowhammer with Pine Bunting bits

in the garden, but just passing through…

Martin Garner

Out at end of Flamborough head, light spring passage includes Chaffinches, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer in small numbers at the moments.

Yellowhammer PB5 (1 of 1)

Martin Garner

I have had a little passion for Yellowhammers for quite a while. Looked at lots. Know the drill. Males with rufous in roughly the moustache/malar region are very common. Nowt out of the ordinary. However last Friday a male appeared in the garden with a rufous band under the throat. Now that grabbed my attention. I have personally never seen that pattern on a male Yellowhammer. Indeed I knew it was interesting. Why? Probably indicates some level of Pine Bunting ‘influence’. Check out a picture of a male Pine Bunting. The two places you expect chestnut to show on yellow Yellowhammer with Pine Bunt bits? The chestnut on the throat, a and chestnut around eye.

This bird had both. So I grabbed  a couple of  distant shots. Took me another couple of hours of effort over next 2 days to get better pics. And the bird appears to have moved on.

think I’m making it up 😉 ?

BWP text

“Birds with chestnut spotted or full malar stripe occur frequently in various populations, without clear trend; birds with patches of rufous elsewhere on head, throat or upper chest occur mainly in East European Russia and Asia, probably due to introgression of characters of Pine Bunting E. leucocephalus.”

Anyone can add to the picture, we are keen to learn. It may be vestigial characters on this individual (I can find photos of odd trapped Yellowhammer with rufous around the eye in W Europe by scrolling t’internet) or may be evidence of recent (several generations?) introgression- thus this individual is already ‘from the east’. Both scenarios or entirely possible.

Yellowhammer PB3 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB2 (1 of 1) Yelllowhammer 4 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB10 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB9 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB11 (1 of 1)


Lancashire December 2003

Meanwhile I think this is also one with more rufous, photographed by Chris Batty at Bradshaw Lane Head, Pilling Moss, Lancashire on 30th December 2003. We featured it HERE

yellowhammer30122003b yellowhammer30122003c


and this one with even more rufous (see how the pattern increases) from Calle

Sweden February 2015

“Hi Martin!

Saw your picture of the possible hybrid bunting on Twitter! I photographed a bunting earlier this winter (February 8th) in my garden in Sweden that I consider to be a Yellowhammer X Pine Bunting. Here are some pictures of it!

Best wishes,

Calle Ljungberg”

Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 7 (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 8 (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 9 (1 of 1)

Calle hybird 14 (1 of 1)

March and April and good bunting migration/ movements months. I’ll keep looking.


Thanks to Frédéric Jiguet check out this bird written up in Dutch Birding:

Jiguet F 2003, Dutch Birding 25-5, 323-326. Hybrid Yellowhammer x Pine Bunting in central France in May-June 2002.

“Hi Martin,
Attached are the three photos of the male, presumed hybrid, that I caught at a breeding site in western France. Caught and ringed 27 May 2002, recaptured on site 24 June 2002.
This male had a very pale yellow head with dark bold blackish stripes (being the most Pine-trends), but deeper yellow on face, a very large rufous band on the breast (Pine-pointing too), pale lower flanks and vent.

The possibility of an hybrid Cirl x Yellow was considered but rapidly excluded.



fred y1 (1 of 1)

pho2fred y3 (1 of 1)


and a normal male in the garden yesterday in low evening sun

male yammmer 2 (1 of 1)


7 thoughts on “Yellowhammer with Pine Bunting bits

    1. Grahame Walbridge

      Another well documented individual was ‘The Sizewell Bunting’ in Apr 1982 (Brit.Birds 83:240-242) originally identified as a Rock Bunting, it exhibited more mixed features than the examples provided above.

    1. Jarmo Pirhonen

      Dear Martin,
      I add link to my article dealing with this topic published in Caluta:
      There is also photo of interesting male Yellowhammer from skin collection of Helsinki Zoological Museum.

      This kind of head pattern in Yellowhammer is not typical for Western caliginosa ( I analysed most skins of Yellowhammers in NHM Tring). It may be hybrid origin. In some males of ssp caliginosa have broad chestnut malar-stripe, but not like this. Also there is chestnut brown in orbital area.

      Best wishes Jarmo Pirhonen, Finland


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