Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Endangered as it is undergoing a very rapid population decline, perhaps primarily owing to conversion of its grassland habitat for agriculture, pasture and forestry. Surveys are urgently required to determine its status over its large former range, and unless additional stable populations are discovered in the near future it may require uplisting to Critically Endangered.
The total population is likely to be fewer than 500 pairs, assuming that there are currently unknown populations remaining elsewhere, but may now be considerably fewer than 200 pairs (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008). It is placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals, equating to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals. National population sizes have been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in China and < c.100 breeding pairs and < c.50 individuals on migration in Korea (Brazil 2009).
Although a series of accurate population surveys are lacking, reports of extremely rapid declines in many locations where the species was formerly abundant suggests a decline of 50-79% over 11 years (three generations) (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008).
Emberiza jankowskii breeds in extreme north-eastern North Korea and in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Jilin, China (BirdLife International 2001). In China, it disperses south and west outside the breeding season, where there are records from Liaoning, Hebei and Beijing. In Russia, it was previously locally common in southern Primorye, with a population estimated at several hundred pairs, but had disappeared from its former breeding sites by the early 1970s, and there have been no subsequent records. In the past, it was not uncommon within its small range in North Korea, but there is little recent information. In China, the breeding population at three sites in Jilin province was estimated at 330-430 pairs in 1994, and in the first half of the 20th century it was locally common in Heilongjiang; however, there are very few recent records and it appears to have disappeared or drastically declined at most of its known sites. It is believed to be extinct in eastern Jilin, and in 2008 breeding was known from a total of only four sites (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008). At Huichin (south-western Jilin) 350 pairs were recorded in 1994 but none could be found in 2005 (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008). No birds have been recorded at Xianghai Nature Reserve since 2003, while at Baicheng the population declined from 100 individuals in 2001 to only two in 2008 (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008). The species's known breeding population is now restricted, with sites including Tumiji and Maanshan in Zhalaite Qi, and the Xing'an League in Inner Mongolia, Dagang Forest Farm in Zhenlai County, western Jilin, the Keerqin area, and reportedly Xiergen and Xinjiamu in Keerqinyouyiqian Qi (Wang Haitao et al. 2010, Fowlie 2013). At Dagang, the population crashed between 1999-2002 from c.55 pairs to c.15 pairs and remained relatively constant at around 15 pairs in 2002-2006 (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008), falling to c.10 pairs in 2010 (Wang Haitao et al. 2010). At Maanshan, the population has declined from c.11 pairs in 2001 to around three pairs in 2008 (Wang Haitao et al. 2010). The only other currently known sites are Tumiji, with possibly fewer than 50 birds, and the Keerqin area, where two pairs were recorded in 2009 and up to seven birds were seen in 2010 (P. Holt in litt. 2010). A record of 43 individuals at Keerqin, resulting from a brief survey in 2008 (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008), is thought to refer to Meadow Buntings E. cioides (Hale 2010). Although it has recently been sighted at new locations and sightings of this species do continue to come in (Townsend 2016, J. Hornskov in litt. 2009, 2013, R. Hofland in litt. 2013), the total population is likely to number fewer than 500 pairs, even assuming that there are currently unknown populations remaining elsewhere, but may now be considerably fewer than 200 pairs (Wang Ruiqing and Li Fei 2008).
It breeds in a variety of open habitats at low altitudes, usually grassland with scattered scrub or small trees on a sandy substrate, within a narrow semi-humid transitional zone between the Manchurian deciduous forest and Mongolian steppe-vegetation zones. The breeding season extends from late April to late July (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008). Clutch size ranges from four to seven eggs, with an incubation period of 11-14 days, followed by a nestling period of 10-13 days (Wang Haitao et al. 2010). During the non-breeding season the species may make some short-distance movements to avoid heavy snow cover, and these are likely to vary year-by-year in accordance with where heavy snowfall occurs (T. Townshend in litt. 2013).
The main threat appears to be the conversion of its habitats for agricultural land and pasture, particularly in China, and possibly also forestry. However, forestry can result in areas of young trees which are temporarily suitable habitat until dense forest develops. At Tumiji, which is protected as a reserve and is one of the few sites known to retain a population, the species's habitat is threatened by inappropriate management, including forage-harvesting, such that in May 2010 only c.1 km2 of suitable habitat remained there (M. Hale in litt. 2010, Hale 2010). In Russia, its decline may have occurred because fires, started for agricultural purposes, affected its habitat and prevented breeding. Potentially suitable habitats remaining in Russia (and presumably also North Korea) are threatened by the implementation of the large-scale Tumangan Development Project. Birds at Dagang Forestry, western Jilin suffered a high degree of nest abandonment, which may have been caused by a combination of disturbance by grazing livestock and predation by snakes and rats (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008). European suslik Citellus citellus and Amur Falcon Falco amurensis are also potential nest predators (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008). Human populations are rapidly expanding within the species's range, and activities such as grazing, digging up medicinal plants and picking the fruits of Siberian apricot Armeniaca sibirica have increased, altering vegetation structure and increasing the probability of nest-robbing by fruit-pickers and shepherds (Jiang Yun-Lei et al. 2008). Reproductive success in the species is negatively impacted by disturbance, and low reproductive success may be causing the loss of some populations and inhibiting the recovery of others (Wang Haitao et al. 2010).
Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected in Russia and North Korea. Part of its former breeding range in Russia is protected within the Khasanskiy Nature Park and a population is protected in Xianghai Nature Reserve in China, although there were recent signs of habitat destruction in Xianghai (R. Christensen et al. in litt. 2009). Efforts have been made to promote more favourable management of habitat at Tumiji (Hale 2010). Survey work continues in at least part of its range (Townshend 2016). Education and outreach work has taken place in schools to increase awareness of this species (Anon. 2014).
16 cm. Strongly rufescent bunting with bold head pattern and mantle streaks and pale underparts. Grey ear-coverts, centre of breast and white wing-bars. Male has oval blackish-chestnut belly patch. Non-breeding male has more obscured belly patch and duller, more heavily streaked upperparts. Similar spp. Male Meadow Bunting E. cioides lacks belly patch, has black ear-coverts, chestnut-buff underparts and indistinct grey/brown wing-bar. Female has browner ear-coverts and buffish breast and buff wing-bars. Voice Song is a simple chu-chu cha-cha cheee or hsuii dzja dzja dzjeee. Calls include single or double tsitt, thin hsiu and explosive sstlitt when alarmed.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Crosby, M., Mahood, S., Calvert, R., Peet, N., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Cheung, H., Wilson, D., Chan, S., Hornbuckle, J., Gao, W., Townshend, T., Hale, M., Holt, P., Hofland, R., Hornskov, J.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Emberiza jankowskii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/10/2021.