Black-faced Bunting

Black-faced Bunting
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala spodocephala, male, Shanghai, April. (Craig Brelsford)
Black-faced Bunting
Singing male spodocephala, Heilongjiang, China, May. (Craig Brelsford)
Black-faced Bunting
Male sordida, Chaka (36.785788, 99.078810), Qinghai, China, elev. 3080 m (10,120 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)
Black-faced Bunting
Female spodocephala, Lesser Yangshan Island, Zhejiang, China, October. (Craig Brelsford)

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala spodocephala breeds Heilongjiang and passes through much of eastern China to winter in Shanghai and much of China south of Yangtze as well as Hainan and Taiwan; sordida breeds northeast Qinghai to Hubei, northern Yunnan, and western Hunan. Masked Bunting E. personata is an occasional passage migrant and winter visitor southeast China and Taiwan. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Breeds in shrubs and dense grass along streams and in open areas in moist forests; in western China to 3100 m (10,170 ft.), in Heilongjiang to 1300 m (4,270 ft.). On passage and in winter in various types of habitat offering thick undergrowth, often near water. Forages mainly on ground, in pairs or small groups; nervous, often flicking tail, revealing white outer rectrices. ID & COMPARISON Breeding spodocephala has distinctive combination of greenish- to blackish-grey hood, black lores and chin, and yellowish underparts with streaking on flanks. Upperparts mainly brown with black streaking. Pale buffish tips to median coverts; fainter on greater coverts. Female lacks hood and black lores, being distinguished by buffish malar stripe, grey-brown supercilium, and brown crown with fine black streaking. Underparts mainly off-white with heavy black streaking on breast and on brownish flanks. Male sordida has more greenish hood, and in male personata the hood does not extend to chin and throat. BARE PARTS Bill blackish above with horn cutting edges, pink below with black tip; feet brownish-pink. VOICE Call a thin, sharp tzit. Song, usually from thick cover, a slow-tempo succession of trills and chirps. — Craig Brelsford


Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala spodocephala, song, Xidaquan National Forest (45.727751, 130.317316), Heilongjiang, China, elev. 210 m (700 ft.), May, by Craig Brelsford (0:43; 2 MB)

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala spodocephala, song, Xidaquan National Forest (45.727751, 130.317316), Heilongjiang, China, elev. 210 m (700 ft.), May, by Craig Brelsford (0:02; 876 KB)

THE BUNTINGS OF CHINA has research on most of the buntings of China. Click any link:

Crested Bunting Emberiza lathami
Yellowhammer E. citrinella
Pine Bunting E. leucocephalos
Rock Bunting E. cia
Godlewski’s Bunting E. godlewskii
Meadow Bunting E. cioides
Jankowski’s Bunting E. jankowskii
Grey-necked Bunting E. buchanani
Ortolan Bunting E. hortulana
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata
Little Bunting E. pusilla
Yellow-browed Bunting E. chrysophrys
Rustic Bunting E. rustica
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila
Tibetan Bunting E. koslowi
Black-headed Bunting E. melanocephala
Red-headed Bunting E. bruniceps
Yellow Bunting E. sulphurata
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala
Masked Bunting E. personata
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi
Japanese Reed Bunting E. yessoensis
Common Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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