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Long-legged Bunting

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Title: Long-legged Bunting  
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Subject: Canary Islands, New Zealand wren, Flightless bird, Stephens Island Wren, Late Quaternary prehistoric birds, Emberiza
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Long-legged Bunting

Long-legged Bunting
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Emberiza
Species: E. alcoveri
Binomial name
Emberiza alcoveri
Rando, Lopez, and Segui, 1999

The Long-legged Bunting (Emberiza alcoveri) is an extinct flightless species of bunting. It was distinguishable by its long legs and short wings, and it inhabited the Canary Islands. It is one of the few flightless Passerines known to science, all of which are extinct.


This bunting belongs to the Emberiza genus, and is closest related to the Cabanis's Bunting (E. cabanisi) and the Yellowhammer (E. citrinella).[1] Emberiza is a genus inside the Bunting family, Emberizidae, which is made up of small, seed-eating birds with distinctive bill shapes.[2] The species name, alcoveri, is in honor of J. A. Alcover, who contributed to fossil fauna knowledge and information.[1]


The holotype of the Long-legged Bunting is a partial skeleton. Seven other associated skeletons were found.[3] The bones are held at the University of La Laguna, in Tenerife, Spain. This species was distinguishable from other buntings as it was larger than existing Emberiza species and had longer legs, shorter wings, and a differently-shaped bill. These features indicate that the Long-legged Bunting was a ground dweller and likely flightless. This makes it one of the few known flightless Passerines known, the others being the Stephens Island Wren (Xenicus lyalli) and the Long-billed Wren (Dendroscansor decurvirostris). Both of these wrens are extinct. This bunting probably was omnivorous, like the other species in its genus. It likely ate seeds and invertebrates. However, because of its differently-shaped bill, harder seeds could have been included in its diet.[1]

Distribution and habitat

The Long-legged Bunting was a native of the Canary Islands. Bones from this species have only been found in the volcanic cave Cueva del Viento, on the island of Tenerife. Other species that lived alongside this bunting include various birds, mammals, and lizards. This species likely lived in the Laurel forest or the transition forest, as food would be plentiful and the herb layer would protect against aerial predators.[1]


The Long-legged Bunting had lived in the Canary Islands during the Upper Pleistocene to the Holocene. Humans arrived over 2,000 years ago, bringing with them invasive species such as goats, pigs, cats, and sheep. The Europeans impacted the land even more when they arrived, introducing rats to the islands and cultivating the land. The Long-legged Bunting was driven to extinction because of these invasive species and the destruction of their habitat.[1]


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