Yellowhammer Bird (Emberiza citrinella)


The yellowhammer bird (Emberiza citrinella) also known as the Eurasian yellowhammer, the European yellowhammer, or the golden bunting, is a small passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae.

It breeds across Europe and much of temperate Asia where it has been introduced in many areas outside its natural range such as New Zealand and Australia, where it has become known by its Maori name of tui-tui. It is not found naturally in North America.

It has many different common names depending on the country in which it lives, including yellow hammer and golden-breasted bunting in Italy. Its scientific name means tawny goldfinch, and its appearance matches this name well with its yellow plumage and its beak that typically grows to only about two inches long.

Yellowhammers are common throughout Europe, parts of Asia, Australia, Africa, and parts of North America as well.



Although commonly mistaken for a wren, the yellowhammer bird is a type of bunting and can be found in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. These birds are about 7 inches long with orange-brown plumage which has black streaks on the breast and central tail feathers.

Yellowhammers live in hedgerows and sparse woodland areas and feed on seeds such as acorns, berries, leaves, flowers, and fruit. They eat beetles when they have to but this is rare.

The yellowhammer bird’s call is often taken as a sign that winter is coming because their call sounds like a wheezy wheezy wheezy. It also makes what sounds like heyeh-heyeh or yah-yah while it’s feeding.

Difference between a yellowhammer female and a male

Male yellowhammers are far more conspicuous than females. Females have olive-brown faces with yellow stripes, while males have yellow faces with black stripes. There is only a lighter, dirty yellow on her throat and belly (they have nothing on the male! ), and her breasts are olive-green with black stripes.

Red Breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

In spite of this, male yellowhammers are just as colorful as their female counterparts outside of the breeding season.

A yellowhammer chick displays even less color than its mother. In the juvenile stage, yellowhammers are olive-brown in color, with black stripes along their backs, tails, and wings – they do not appear yellow in color at all. Their future vibrancy is only hinted at by a pale, dashed belly.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the yellowhammer bird is Emberiza citrinella.

Yellowhammer habitat

The yellowhammer is a migratory species, often nesting in agricultural fields with edges and hedgerows. They have also been observed nesting in forest clearings, shrublands, and wetlands. This makes it difficult to estimate population numbers because the bird may choose different habitats to nest, depending on the season.

Size and weight

The Yellowhammer bird can measure up to 15 to 17 cm (5.9 to 6.7 inches) in length. The weight of the Yellowbeak ranges from 20 to 37 grams (0.7 to 1.3 oz), with a wingspan of around 23 to 29.5 cm (9.1 to 11.6 inches).

Yellowhammer bird feathers and plumage


Yellowhammers are named for their bright yellow throat, chest, and vent feathers. The upper parts of the bird are grey-brown with black spots while the underparts are off-white. They have a long thin dark bill and legs.

They have a dark eye stripe that runs from the forehead to over the eye and curves around the cheek in an arc. Their wings appear short and broad when folded, but they are actually long like those of other finches. Males have more pointed wings than females do. Yellowhammers make a soft twittering sound, but also produce melodious chirps.


One of the challenges birds face is an annual event called molting. This is when feathers wear out and need to be replaced with new ones. Molting happens every year and is mostly done during the warmer months of the year when feather insulation isn’t needed for warmth, but rather to provide protection from the sun and rain.

Song Thrush Bird (Turdus philomelos)

The molting process involves several steps, some of which include tearing out feathers from old sets to form a base in preparation for new feathers that will grow over time.

During this process, birds are at risk of predators because they can’t fly or camouflage themselves as well as they usually do. To protect themselves, many species choose to molt near water where predators can be more easily detected by sight or sound.

Nesting behavior

Nests of yellowhammers are located in ditch vegetation and in hedgerows and scrub at or near the ground. The most common habitat for them is hedgerows with a wide margin or ditch. Cutting hedges before the end of August can destroy nests, as they often breed until the end of August.

The yellowhammer has also been known to nest in unusual locations such as old factories or abandoned buildings.

Diet and foraging

The yellowhammer is a very opportunistic bird and can be found foraging for insects, seeds, nectar, fruit, and carrion. They will typically eat almost anything it finds, which often includes non-bird prey.

Yellowhammer song and vocal behavior

Yellowhammers are often described as singing in a way that resembles them saying, ‘a little bit of bread without cheese’, whereas their calls sound like sharp ‘zit’ sounds.



Nests of yellowhammers are usually located among hedgerows or woodland fringes, low to the ground. Females build them only, and they contain a mixture of various materials, including dry grass, stalks, leaves, stalks, and other plant materials. Linings are typically made up of fine grasses and animal hairs.

Late April is the time when yellowhammer breeding begins, and each clutch consists of approximately two to six eggs with glossy, smooth surfaces and purplish markings. There’s a 13-day incubation period, and they can take up to 16 days to fully fledge.


Yellowhammer birds can live up to 13 years, although their typical lifespan is only 3 years.

Thrush Nightingale Bird (Luscinia luscinia)

Movements and migration

Yellowhammers migrate from the northern temperate parts of Eurasia and overwinter in southern Europe, Africa, and South Asia. Their migration is triggered by changes in day length as well as food availability.

In the spring, they return to their summer ranges after a winter of looking for food in areas where it is more plentiful. It’s not known why these birds do this but one theory is that migratory birds are searching for fresh pastures on which to feed and other vegetation with high carbohydrate content so that they can build up fat reserves before mating season.

Diseases and threats

In recent years, populations of yellowhammers have been declining in many parts of the world. They are listed as a species of conservation concern for eastern and central Europe, a threatened species in Australia, and an endangered species in Ireland. The yellowhammer faces extinction or extirpation in Hungary and France due to major declines due to land-use changes.


Population status

As per the IUCN Red List, the yellowhammer population is estimated to be between 40,000,000 and 69,999,999 mature individuals. It is estimated that there are 12,800,000 to 19,900,000 breeding pairs in Europe, which equals to around 25,500,000 to 39,700,000 mature birds.

In accordance with the IUCN Red List, this species is currently categorized as Least Concern (LC). However, its numbers have been decreasing over the past few years.

Conservation and management

The Yellowhammer has a conservation status of ‘least concern’. It can be found in many parts of the United Kingdom and Europe, but its population is declining due to a variety of reasons.

The main threats to the Yellowhammer are land-use changes, insecticides, and increased traffic on motorways which has reduced its food availability. The population decline is also likely due to their intolerance of urbanization and human disturbance.

There have been attempts to improve their situation with supplementary feeding programs, controlling predators such as rats and sparrowhawks, installing nest boxes, and reducing nest predation rates through bird scarers. However, these efforts often do not work because they cannot be sustained over time.

Ortolan Bird (Ortolan bunting, Emberiza hortulana)

The most effective methods used to conserve the Yellowhammer are reforestation projects that keep large forested areas intact and provide patches of open habitat for nesting. Landscape fragmentation from development or roads increases vulnerability to human activities such as hunting, egg collecting, and pesticide use.