Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica


Justification of Red List category
This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable as recent evidence suggests that the global population is undergoing rapid declines. Possible factors include increased logging in the breeding range, and large-scale trapping together with agricultural intensification in the non-breeding range.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 681,000-831,000 pairs, which equates to 1,360,000-1,660,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 6,800,000-8,300,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification

Data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) indicate that the species has declined significantly in recent years, and that this decline is ongoing. A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European breeding population has declined overall by 30–49% over the last three generations (10.8 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 3.6 years). This corresponds well with the declining trend reported by PECBMS (the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme), and with the decline across Scandinavia reported by Dale & Hansen (2013). Consequently, the species is now classified as Vulnerable at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

However, only around 20% of the species’ global breeding range occurs in Europe, so globally its status depends on trends in Asian Russia, especially in Siberia. The population in European Russia has declined by >30% since 2000 and by >50% since 1980 (BirdLife International 2015), so at least some decline east of the Urals also seems likely. Furthermore, the species has a similar migration route and wintering areas to the globally Endangered and rapidly declining Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola, and may also be trapped in China (Kamp et al. 2015). Edenius et al. (2016) subsequently compiled population data across its breeding and wintering ranges. The analysis revealed a 75–87% decline in overall population size over the past 30 years and a 32–91% decline over the past 10 years. The species is therefore suspected to be undergoing an ongoing global decline of at least 30-49% in three generations.

Distribution and population

This bunting breeds across northern latitudes of the Palaearctic from Norway in the west to Kamchatka (Russia) in the east. It is a full migrant, wintering in central and eastern Asia (primarily from eastern China to Japan).


The species breeds in swampy lowland spruce (Picea) or pine (Pinus) forest with some birches (Betula), willows (Salix) or other deciduous trees. It also uses scrub along riverbanks and around Sphagnum bogs. In flooded pine forests it is frequently found where pines stunted and dead trees are covered with moss. Undergrowth is usually present, usually consisting of horsetail (Equisetum) and bushes such as Rubus (Copete and Garcia 2016). It may benefit from the construction of dams by beavers (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Dale and Hansen 2013, Copete and Garcia 2016). The breeding season starts in May or early June. The nest is usually placed on the ground often near water, among grassy vegetation. Occasionally it is built in a low tree. The clutch, usually four to six eggs, is incubated by both the male and female. The chicks hatch after 11–13 days. They are fed by both parents and leave the nest after 7–10 days. Then they are fed by the parents for another 15 days before they are able to fly. During the breeding season it mostly feeds on seeds and a wide variety of invertebrate species. The species is migratory, wintering mainly in Japan, Korea and eastern China with a small wintering population in southern Kazakhstan and north-west China (Copete and Garcia 2016).


The numbers of this species have declined in the Scandinavian part of its range since 1980. This decline is associated with forest logging and draining of swamps leading to habitat degradation or even destruction. In northern Finland, forest management has led to forest fragmentation resulting in declines in density (Copete and Garcia 2016). However the habitat of the species in Norway where it has also declined has remained rather unchanged (Dale and Hansen 2013). It is suggested that habitat destruction and hunting and trapping, taking place in the east Asian wintering grounds, may be the cause of the species's decline in Norway. Across the global range, agricultural intensification in the wintering range and intensified levels of disturbance, including logging and fire, in the breeding range could be important drivers of the range-wide population decline, and persecution could also contribute (Edenius et al. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation and research actions underway
There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation and research actions proposed
Conduct research into the causes of the species decline in its breeding areas and in particular its non-breeding areas.


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

Virkkala, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Emberiza rustica. Downloaded from on 26/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/02/2024.