The Emberizinae comprise the Buntings, a very large group, of which fifteen species are found in India, the majority visiting that country in the winter and retiring north in the summer. A few remain to breed, but chiefly in the Himalayas.
The Buntings have a conical and sharply pointed bill, with the culmen straight or nearly so; the edges of the two mandibles, however, unlike those of the other Fringillidae, are not in contact throughout their length, but form a gap or angle about midway between the gape and the tip of the bill. The upper mandible, moreover, has the palate furnished with a small hard process or knob. With this exception the Buntings conform in structure to the Finches. Like them also they have a double plumage, caused in most cases by the abrasion or dropping off of the margins of the feathers in spring, while a few Buntings have in addition a partial spring moult.
The young of Buntings resemble the female, but are characterized, where striation is present, by a greater amount of streaking. At the autumn moult of the first year the young assume the plumage of the adult female, and then the males gradually put on the plumage of the adult male, the process taking several months.
The Buntings frequent cornfields, waste lands, and grassy tracts of country. They are more or less gregarious. They devour grain in large quantities and also feed on seeds of all sorts. Their nests are cup-shaped and placed on or near the ground in grass and bushes, and sometimes in crevices of rocks and walls. The eggs, as a rule, are richly marked with spots and lines of red and purple.
"With the exception of one Bunting which is crested, all the Indian species appear to me to be sufficiently similar in structure to be congeneric, and I have accordingly placed them all in the genus Emberiza.