Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla)

Little Bunting

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza pusilla | [UK] Little Bunting | [FR] Bruant nain | [DE] Zwergammer | [ES] Escribano pigmeo | [NL] Dwerggors


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Smallest bunting of west Palearctic, with delicate but compact form and terrestrial behaviour recalling Linnet and Dunnock. Distinctly less bulky than Reed Bunting, with sharply pointed bill, flat sloping forehead, little or no neck, shorter, straight-edged tail, and shorter legs.
Plumage basically buff to grey-brown above and clean buffish-white below, with bright, warm colored, and quite strongly marked head, more rufous, pale-barred wings, white-edged tail, and finely streaked breast and flanks.
Sexes similar, no seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Little Bunting

[audio: Bunting.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 20 cm wingspan max.: 22 cm
size min.: 12 cm size max.: 14 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 12 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 12 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : North


In west Palearctic, breeds only in boreal and arctic continental climatic zones. In south, having more northerly range than any other Emberizidae except Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting.
Favours willow zone along rivers through northern taiga, and open forest by river mouths. Towards west of range shows preference for undergrowth of dwarf birch or willow among taller trees, which may be birch, spruce, or other species.


Early June to mid July in Finland, June in Russia. Nest site is usually on ground, on grass tussock or moss cushion sheltered by overhanging grass or twigs of alder, birch, willow etc., also on tree stump. Nest is a foundation of thin twigs, stalks of herbs, grass, sedge, horsetail, moss, lined with fine grass, lichen, and sometimes hair. 4-6 eggs, incubation, 11-12 days, by both sexes.

Feeding habits

Diet seeds, also invertebrates in breeding season. On migration, most often feeds in crops, on turned soil, paths, and roads, almost wholly on ground. In winter quarters, in short grass, scattered woodland, marshy places, river banks, and stubble and paddy fields.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Little Bunting status Least Concern


All populations migratory, wintering mainly from Nepal east to China and Indochina. Western birds head east from breeding grounds then south or south-east, and eastern birds head south, to reach winter quarters via Mongolia, south-east Russia, and north-east China. Autumn migration August-November. Birds leave breeding grounds from mid-August to early or mid-September. Spring migration late March to June. One of latest migrants to reach north-east Finland; average earliest bird 6 June, and never earlier than 30-31 May.
Widespread records in west Palearctic, mostly in autumn. Annual in Britain, with 93 before 1958, and 522 in 1958-93 (including Ireland). Autumn records chiefly in Shetland (especially Fair Isle), on British east coast and in Isles of Scilly; spring records well scattered, and include a number of inland localities. Several reports midwinter, from Scotland south to Jersey (Channel Islands); in Merseyside (north-west England), bird remained from January to early April; other birds present at different sites in southern Britain may also have overwintered. On Finnish coast also, a few midwinter records. In Sweden, up to 1986, 209 records April-November, chiefly May to early July. In Netherlands, 68 records to 1994, chiefly September-November and a few February-May. In France, far more records than of Rustic Bunting; in 19th century, a few caught annually in autumn at Marseille in south-east; records in 20th century chiefly in west and south-west; recorded in all months September-April, chiefly October-November. In Israel, occurs in very small numbers; regular at Eilat, with 1-6 individuals each year, and 7 birds reported 1979-89 in Jerusalem hills; most records late October to mid-November.

Distribution map

Little Bunting distribution range map

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