Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps 褐頭鵐

Category I. Accidental in winter, one spring record; occurs in open country.


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Jan. 2013, Martin Hale.

15 – 16.5 cm. Large, unstreaked and pale (in non-male plumage) bunting lacking white in the tail and with large head and bill. Females and immatures closely resemble Black-headed Bunting but have less distinct crown streaking, more distinct mantle streaks and slightly shorter and weaker bill. Young birds in autumn have yellow only on undertail coverts.

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Dec. 2010, Michelle and Peter Wong. Male.

In winter the red head of the male is obscured by brownish feather tips.


Varied call vocabulary, the more common of which can be heard in this recording: ‘chup’, a slightly buzzing ‘zirt’ and ‘chu’.


Has occurred in open country habitats such as Long Valley, Lam Tsuen and the Mai Po area. Long Valley in particular has proved attractive to buntings due to the availability of rice grain.


Records have occurred in the period 23 December to 22 February, and 2nd and 24 April:

2008: one near Mai Po on 10 January.

2010: one at Long Valley on 23 December and one at She Shan, Lam Tsuen on 27 December.

2012: a first-winter male at Long Valley on 23 December.

2013: a female and an immature at Long Valley from 15 January to 1 February.

2017: a male at Fung Lok Wai on 25 January, and a female at San Tin during 4-5 February.

2020: singles at Long Valley on 3 January, 10 and 22 February, and at Lam Tsuen on 2nd and 24 April.

Largely a winter visitor with one spring record, in contrast to Black-headed Bunting which occurs mainly on autumn passage.


Monotypic. Breeds from the area north of the Caspian Sea east through much of Kazakhstan to western Mongolia and south through Central Asia to Afghanistan and western Pakistan; winters in India (Copete 2020). In China breeds in northern and western Xinjiang (Liu and Chen 2020). Winters in India.

There are a number of records of vagrants in east Asia. Wilder and Hubbard (1923) noted a male in a bird market in Beijing on 24 May and Cheng (1987) listed one at Qamdo, Tibet in September. It is listed in a South Korea checklist (Birds Korea 2014) and in the same country a male was on Eocheong Island on 5 May 2016 (Newlin 2016). It is listed for Taiwan by Ding et al. (2020) and is described as accidental to islands in the Sea of Japan by Brazil (2018).


IUCN: Least Concern. Population trend stable.

Birds Korea (2014). The Birds Korea Checklist for the Republic of Korea: 2014. Available at:

Brazil, M. (2018). Birds of Japan. Helm, London.

Copete, J. L. (2020). Red-headed Bunting (Emberiza bruniceps), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Ding, T. S., C. S. Juan, R. S. Lin, Y. J. Tsai, J. L. Wu, J. Wu and Y. H. Yang (2020). The 2020 CWBF Checklist of the Birds of Taiwan. Bird Record Committee, Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Taipei. Downloaded at:

Newlin, R. 2016. April 30-May 4, Eocheong Island. At

Wilder, G. D. and H. W. Hubbard (1924). List of the birds of Chihli province. J. North China Branch Royal Asiatic Society 55: 184-194.

Liu, Y. and Y. H. Chen (eds) (2020). The CNG Field Guide to the Birds of China (in Chinese). Hunan Science and Technology Publication House, Changsha.

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