Chestnut Bunting

Chestnut Bunting
Chestnut Bunting Emberiza rutila, male, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, May. This colorful bunting breeds in the Russian Far East and northeast China, winters in south China and Southeast Asia, and is an uncommon passage migrant in Shanghai. (Craig Brelsford)
Chestnut Bunting
Male, Lesser Yangshan Island, Zhejiang, May. (Craig Brelsford)
Chestnut Bunting
Female, Jiangsu, China, September. (Craig Brelsford)

Chestnut Bunting Emberiza rutila breeds Heilongjiang in Lesser Khingan Range and Changbai Mountains. Migrants pass through eastern China (especially coast) to winter in southern China plus Taiwan. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Breeds in open conifer, deciduous, and mixed forests with underbrush, to 1500 m (4,920 ft.). On passage and in winter at forest edge and around dry agricultural land with shrubs. Feeds mainly on ground, seeking refuge in branches of nearby trees when startled. ID & COMPARISON Mid-sized bunting with unmarked rufous rump and nearly all-black tail. Male attractive and unmistakable, with bright chestnut hood and upperparts and mainly lemon-yellow underparts. Non-breeding male duller with sprinkling of yellow on head and breast. Female similar to female Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola, but more plain-headed, with greyish-brown crown; faint chestnut lateral crown-stripe; pale yellowish-buff supercilium, malar stripe, and throat; and black lateral throat stripe merging into fine streaking across breast and down flanks. Rest of underparts yellow. Mantle and scapulars greyish-brown with dark streaking and buffy wingbars on median and greater coverts. Non-breeding female and juvenile have browner upperparts and breast. BARE PARTS Small, fine bill bluish-brown above, pinkish-brown below; feet orange-pink. VOICE Call a sharp and sometimes rapidly repeated zit, similar to Yellow-browed Bunting E. chrysophrys and Little Bunting E. pusilla. Sings unseen amid branches, a fast, loud burst of scratchy notes and trills. — Craig Brelsford

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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