Breeding prerequisites for Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in Swedish farmland with special focus on foraging


  • Jan Sondell
  • Carles Durà
  • Magnus Persson



Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana are rapidly decreasing in Sweden. Changes in agricultural practices are the main reason. Landscape simplification due to the removal of semi-natural elements leads to a lack of breeding habitats. Furthermore, due to intensive artificial fertiliser applications and advanced agricultural equipment and technology, crops grow both taller and denser than 50 years ago. In Kvismaren, south central Sweden, Ortolan Buntings have been studied since 2009. Here, we focus on one question: what defines a good foraging microhabitat? In 2017, nesting areas for five females and four males were identified and we did 271 feeding observations. Average foraging distance at different nests varied between 47 and 114 meters. About 70% of the foraging activities took place within crop fields. Ortolans utilized mainly unsown rows, later to be used by tractors for spraying etc. and patchy parts of standing crops. Invertebrates extracted from those areas looked dark, suggestive of ground-dwelling species. Our key management recommendation to create better microhabitats for feeding can be easily achieved by most farmers: to leave two unsown sowing rows (amounting to 0.38 m in width) for each tractor wheel to follow.


Download data is not yet available.


Artportalen, SLU. 2018. Artportalen – rapportsystem för växter, djur och svampar. Available at, accessed in 2018.

Berg Å. 2008. Habitat selection and reproductive success of Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana on farmland in central Sweden — the importance of habitat heterogeneity. Ibis 150: 565‒573.

Bernardy P. 2016. Ortolanprojekt: erste Ergebnisse der Zugstrategie wenderländicher Ortolaner. Presentation at a Swedish–German ortolan meeting in Bavaria 10–11 June 2016.

Brambilla M, Gustin M, Vitulano S, Negri I & Celada C. 2016. A territory scale analysis of habitat preferences of the declining Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana. Bird Study 63(1): 52–57.

Dale S. 1997. Hortulan – en direkte truet fugleart. Vår Fuglefauna 20: 33−38.

Dale S. 2000. The importance of farmland for Ortolan Buntings nesting on raised peat bogs. Ornis Fennica 77: 17–25.

Dale S, Frode B & Olsen G. 2002. Use of farmland by Ortolan Buntings (Emberiza hortulana) nesting on a burned forest area. Journal für Ornithologie 143: 133–144.

Deutsch M. 2007. Der Ortolan Emberiza hortulana im Wendland (Niedersachsen) – Bestandszunahme durch Grünland Umbruch und Melioration? Vogelwelt 128: 105–115.

Durango S. 1948. Notes sur la reproduction de bruant ortolan en Suède. Alauda 16: 1–20.

Green M, Haas F & Lindström Å. 2018. Monitoring population changes of birds in Sweden. Annual report for 2017. Department of Biology, Lund University. 95 pp.

Jiguet F, Arlettaz R, Bauer H-G, Belik V, Copete JL, Couzi L, Czajkowski MA, Dale S, Dombrovski V, Elts J, Ferrand Y, Hargues R, Kirwan GM, Minkevicius S, Piha M, Selstam G, Skierczyński M, Siblet J-P & Sokolov A. 2016a. An update of European population sizes and trends of the Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana). Ornis Fennica 93: 186–196.

Jiguet F, Arlettaz R, Belik V, Bernardy P, Copete JL, Czajkowski MA, Dale S, Dombrovski V, Elts J, Ferrand Y, Minkevicius S, Piha M, Selstam G, Skierczyński M, Siblet J-P & Sokolov A. 2016b. Migration strategy of the Ortolan Bunting: Final report of the scientific committee. 97 pp. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris. Available at

Jordbruksverket. 2016. Ekologiska fokusarealer. Available at

Menz MHM & Arlettaz R. 2012. The precipitous decline of the ortolan bunting: time to build on scientific evidence to inform conservation management. Oryx 46: 122−129.

Menz MHM, Mosimann-Kampe P & Arlettaz R. 2009. Foraging habitat selection in the last Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana population in Switzerland: final lessons before extinction. Ardea 97(3): 323–333.

Morelli F. 2012. Correlations between landscape features and crop type and the occurrence of the Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in farmlands of Central Italy. Ornis Fennica 89: 264–272.

Nævra A. 2002. Hortulanens skjebnetime. Vår Fuglefauna 25: 62−81.

Naturvårdsverket. 2017. Åtgärdsprogram för ortolansparv 2017‒2021. Rapport 6781, april 2017.

Ottosson U, Ottvall R, Elmberg J, Green M, Gustafsson R, Haas F, Holmqvist N, Lindström Å, Nilsson L, Svensson M, Svensson S & Tjernberg M. 2012. Fåglarna i Sverige – antal och förekomst. Sveriges Ornitologiska Förening, Halmstad.

Ottvall R, Green M, Lindström Å, Svensson S, Esseen P-A & Marklund L. 2008. Ortolansparvens Emberiza hortulana förekomst och habitatval i Sverige. [Distribution and habitat choice of the Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in Sweden]. Ornis Svecica 18: 3–16.

Persson M, Selstam G, Sondell J & Olsson P. 2015. Var tillbringar ortolanhannen vid Lindåsabacken vintern? Fåglar i Kvismaren 30: 8‒9.

Persson M & Sondell J. 2018. Den andra kända observationen av polygyni hos ortolansparv Emberiza hortulana. [Second known record of polygyny in Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana]. Ornis Svecica 28: 74–76.

Rosenberg E. 1953. Fåglar i Sverige. Svensk natur, Uppsala.

Runesson B & Jönsson K. 1987. Inventering av ortolan- och gulsparv vid Kvismaren 1965‒1986. Fåglar i Kvismaren 2: 2‒12.

Selstam G, Sondell J & Olsson P. 2015. Wintering area and migration routes for Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana from Sweden determined with light-geologgers. Ornis Svecica 25: 1‒14.

Sondell J, Brookes C & Persson M. 2011. Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana at Kvismaren, central Sweden — breeding studies and suggested management. Ornis Svecica 21: 167–174.

Sondell J. 2012. Läget är kritiskt för ortolansparven i mellersta Sverige. Fåglar i Kvismaren 27: 2‒6.

Sondell J. 2013. Aktuellt om ortolansparven 2012‒2013. Fåglar i Kvismaren 28: 8‒13.

Sondell J, Hansson P, Jerling N-O, Lindström J & Selstam G. 2014. Inventering av ortolansparv på hyggen i Norrland. Available at, “Rapport från Inventering av ortolansparv på hyggen i Norrland 2014”.

Sondell J. 2016. Studier av de åkerhäcknade tättingarna sånglärka och ortolansparv. Fåglar i Kvismaren 31: 12‒17.

Sondell J. 2017. Are large fields of autumn crop at Kvismaren, central Sweden commonly used as nesting and food search habitats for Skylark Alauda arvensis? Ornis Svecica 27: 41‒56.

Stolt B-O. 1974. Gulsparvens Emberiza citrinella och ortolansparvens Emberiza hortulana förekomst vid Uppsala under 1960-talet. Vår Fågelvärld 33: 210−217.

Stolt B-O. 1993. Notes on reproduction in a declining population of the Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana. Journal für Ornithologie 134: 59–98.

Steifetten Ø & Dale S. 2006. Viability of an endangered population of ortolan buntings: The effect of a skewed operational sex ratio. Biological conservation 132: 88–97.

Wretenberg J, Lindström Å, Svensson S & Pärt Å. 2007. Linking agricultural policies to population trends of Swedish farmland birds in different agricultural regions. Journal of Applied Ecology 44: 933–941.




How to Cite

Sondell, J., Durà, C., & Persson, M. (2019). Breeding prerequisites for Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in Swedish farmland with special focus on foraging. Ornis Svecica, 29, 5–25.



Research Papers