Emberizidae is a large family of passerine birds, which are typically known as buntings in the Old World and sparrows in the New World. They are seed-eating birds with a distinctively finch-like bill.
In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as (American) sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the (Old World) sparrows, the family Passeridae. The family also includes the North American birds known as juncos and towhees.
The Emberizidae family probably originated in South America and spread first into North America before crossing into eastern Asia and continuing to move west. This explains the comparative paucity of emberizid species in Europe and Africa when compared to the Americas.
As with several other passerine families the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux. Many genera in South and Central America are in fact more closely related to several different tanager clades, and at least one tanager genus (Chlorospingus) may belong here in the Emberizidae.
A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders; with over 5,000 identified species, it has roughly twice as many species as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia. It contains more than 110 families, the second most of any order of vertebrates (after the Perciformes).
The names "passerines" and "Passeriformes" are derived from Passer domesticus, the scientific name of the eponymous species (the House Sparrow) and ultimately from the Latin term passer for Passer sparrows and similar small birds.