Yellow Bunting Emberiza sulphurata


Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Red List criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
- - -

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2022 Least Concern
2016 Vulnerable C2a(ii)
2012 Vulnerable C2a(ii)
2008 Vulnerable C1; C2a(ii)
2007 Vulnerable
2004 Vulnerable
2000 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable
1988 Threatened
Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency medium
Land-mass type shelf island
Average mass -

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence (breeding/resident) 164,000 km2 medium
Extent of Occurrence (non-breeding) 278,000 km2 medium
Severely fragmented? no -
Estimate Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
Population size unknown poor - -
Population trend stable poor inferred -
Generation length 2.2 years - - -
Number of subpopulations 1 - - -
Percentage of mature individuals in largest subpopulation 100% - - -

Population justification: The global population had previously been roughly estimated to be in the band c.2,500-9,999 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2001). This appears to have been a considerable underestimate of the true population size, with Brazil (2009) considering that there were c. 100,000 breeding pairs. Without more certain information, the current population size is uncertain. The observation that at the northern edge of the range the species breeds down to near sea level may also indicate that the overall population size was likely to be considerably higher than previously suspected (Kaneko 2020). Densities had not significantly changed in 40 years at locations where habitat associations were studied: in 1977 densities were 30 individuals per km2 while in 2014 densities were 50 individuals per km2 (Deguchi et al. 2017). These high densities strongly indicates that the population size is not as small as previously suggested, and it is very likely to exceed thresholds for listing as threatened.
In the previous century the population is thought to have been greatly reduced from historical high abundance (Brazil 1991), however there was a small increase in breeding squares detected between the 1974-78 and the 1997-2004 Japanese Bird Atlas (Ministry of the Environment Biodiversity Center of Japan 2004), which has continued in the 2016-2021 atlas (Breeding Bird Distribution Survey 2021). Despite fears that the species may be impacted in a similar way to other migratory bunting species along the East Asian flyway, there is no evidence of a reduction in the numbers recorded during migration through Korea (Choi et al. 2020). Numbers of this species banded increased between the two periods investigated (1950s-1980s and 1990s-2010s), although numbers involved were small (Choi et al. 2020).

Trend justification: The species was reported to have suffered a dramatic reduction in abundance during the 20th century (Brazil 1991). Pesticide use appears to be correlated with this decline, though habitat degradation and loss to agriculture more generally are considered to have been the main drivers, potentially with an additional impact from bird trapping (Copete 2020).
An indirect study of comparative abundance trends in buntings in Korea (Choi et al. 2020) found more individuals had been banded in the 1990s-2010s versus the 1950s-1980s, and the Japan bird atlas indicates an increase in the number of confirmed or likely breeding grid squares from 89 in 1974-1978 to 126 in 2016-2021 (Breeding Bird Distribution Survey Committee 2021). As such the population is assessed as stable or possibly increasing.

Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Presence Origin Resident Breeding visitor Non-breeding visitor Passage migrant
China (mainland) extant native yes
Hong Kong (China) extant native yes
Japan extant native yes
North Korea extant native yes
Philippines extant native yes
South Korea extant native yes
Taiwan, China extant native yes yes

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name
China (mainland) Taohongling Sika Deer Nature Reserve
Hong Kong (China) Inner Deep Bay and Shenzhen River catchment area
Philippines Batanes Islands
Philippines Kalbario-Patapat National Park
Philippines Mount Pulag National Park
Japan Mount Fuji
Japan Mounts Asama, Shirane and Tanigawa
Japan Mounts Azuma and Bandai
Japan Mounts Zao and Funagata
Japan Myoko, Togakushi highlands

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Artificial/Terrestrial Arable Land suitable non-breeding
Artificial/Terrestrial Pastureland suitable non-breeding
Forest Temperate major non-breeding
Forest Temperate major breeding
Shrubland Temperate suitable non-breeding
Altitude 600 - 1500 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Agriculture & aquaculture Annual & perennial non-timber crops - Agro-industry farming Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion
Agriculture & aquaculture Annual & perennial non-timber crops - Small-holder farming Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Intentional use (species is the target) Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Species mortality
Pollution Agricultural & forestry effluents - Herbicides and pesticides Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Unknown Unknown
Ecosystem degradation, Reduced reproductive success, Species mortality

Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Pets/display animals, horticulture - - international non-trivial recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Emberiza sulphurata. Downloaded from on 28/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2023.