Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos


Justification of Red List category
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 has not been quantified, but it is not believed to 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.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, though the European population is estimated at 50-120 pairs, which equates to 100-240 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015), with Europe forming <5% of the global range. National population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in China; < c.1,000 individuals on migration and < c.1,000 wintering individuals in Korea; < c.1,000 individuals on migration and < c.1,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. The European population trend is unknown (BirdLife International 2015).


This species prefers forest edges, thinned out coniferous or mixed forests, forest-fragments and forest clearings as result of logging or fire (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Copete 2016). During winter and migration it is found in open landscapes with scrub and trees, forest belts, gardens and tall weedy thickets, normally with arable fields, orchards, gardens or waste ground, often near water and swampy pastures (Copete 2016). The species breeds between late-April and the end of July, with most birds starting breeding in May. The nest is built by the female in vegetation on the ground. The clutch, usually four or five eggs, is incubated by the female and chicks hatch after 13 days. Nestlings are fed by both parents and they are fully fledged after 10–13 days. During the breeding season the species mainly feeds on small invertebrates, such as grasshoppers, bugs, beetles, caterpillars, flies, spiders and snails. Outside the breeding season it mainly forages on seeds of cereals, grasses and herbs. The nominate race is migratory; leaving the breeding grounds in August and September and returning in late-March and April. The fronto race is resident (Copete 2016).


Generally there is no evidence for substantial threats (Copete 2016). The species interbreeds with Emberiza citrinella in the contact zone of both species in the most western part of its range. According to Panov et al. (2003) the hybridisation process will intensify in the contact zone of both species, as they are very similar in behaviour and habitat choice. The long-term impact of this process is unclear (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Copete 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Surveys are required in Siberia, where the bulk of the population breeds, in order to generate a robust global population estimate (Copete 2016).


Text account compilers
Symes, A., Ekstrom, J., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Emberiza leucocephalos. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.