Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Reed Bunting

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Emberiza schoeniclus | [UK] Reed Bunting | [FR] Bruant des roseaux | [DE] Rohrammer | [ES] Escribano Palustre | [NL] Rietgors


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized to rather large bunting, seemingly large headed and thick-necked (male), with fairly lengthy form and distinctive voice. Breeding male instantly recognized by black head and bib and white collar, shared only by Pallas’s Reed Bunting. Paler eastern birds, rare small individuals, and occasional aberrant head plumage present serious pitfalls.
Has habit of nervously spreading tail. Sexes dissimilar, marked seasonal variation in male.

Listen to the sound of Reed Bunting

[audio: Bunting.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 21 cm wingspan max.: 26 cm
size min.: 14 cm size max.: 16 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 15 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 15 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 7  


Eurasia : widespread


Most widespread in range of west Palearctic breeding Emmberizidae, inhabiting oceanic islands and peninsulas, and continental plains from arctic through boreal, temperate, and Mediterranean to steppe and even desert climatic zones. Yet within this vast range, choice of occupied sites is ecologically restricted to particular types of dense and prolific fairly low vegetation, mainly associated with intense soil moisture. Avoids both closed forest and typical open country, as well as bare, rocky, or frozen surfaces, steep or broken ground, and areas of immediate human disturbance or settlement.


Breeding starts from May to july. Nest site is usually well hidden on ground or on sedge tussocks, heaps of dead rushes, reeds, etc., by water, also up to 4 m above ground. Nest is a foundation of stems and blades of sedges, grasses, and other waterside plants, occasionally small twigs, lined with finer plant material, moss, rootlets, and sometimes hair or feathers.
clutch 4-5 eggs, incubation, 12-15 days, by female only.

Feeding habits

Seeds and other plant material, invertebrates in breeding season, and also opportunistically during remainder of year. Takes plant and animal material on ground among sedges, rushes, reeds, etc., in pasture and marshy grasslands, and also low in waterside bushes and trees willow, alder, or on stems of reed. Outside breeding season, more often on ground in open countryside and cultivated fields, weedy areas, woodland clearings, uplands, etc., well away from water, often in flocks with other seed-eaters.


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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.
Emberiza schoeniclus is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts
for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
very large (>4,800,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although the species
declined in several countries-notably Norway and Sweden-during 1990-2000,
populations were stable across most of Europe, including key ones in Russia and
Romania, and the species declined only slightly overall.
Reed Bunting status Least Concern


Northern group schoeniclus sedentary to migratory; southern pyrrhuloides group of races chiefly sedentary. Winters in areas with little or no snow cover (except pyrrhuloides group) making mid-winter flights if snowfall persists. In Europe, nominate schoeniclus migratory in north-east, increasingly sedentary towards south-west; migrants head between SSW and west. Some birds winter south of range in Mediterranean region. Thus, in Strait of Gibraltar (where few breed), locally common in winter, and regular on passage. In Corsica (where none breed), regular in small numbers. Widespread winter visitor in small numbers in north-west Africa, reported to edge of Sahara. Autumn movement chiefly mid-September to mid-November; spring movement chiefly mid-February to April.

Distribution map

Reed Bunting distribution range map

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