Pallas’s Reed Bunting

Pallas’s Reed Bunting
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi is common in winter in the reed beds at Cape Nanhui, Shanghai. (Craig Brelsford)

Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi comprises four ssp., all present in China: polaris and minor wintering eastern China south to Fujian, with minor also breeding Heilongjiang; pallasi also breeds Heilongjiang as well as Tianshan in Xinjiang and wintering in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia; and lydiae probably breeds northern Inner Mongolia and likely present in northern China in winter. An unknown race probably breeds on Ordos Plateau. HABITAT Breeds among reeds and in thickets along watercourses and on wetland fringes, less often in grasslands and wet meadows in higher-lying areas. In winter in similar but sometimes drier habitats. ID & COMPARISON Distinguished in all plumages from Common Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus by smaller, sharper bill, the straight culmen of Pallas’s contrasting with the slightly arched culmen of Common; generally colder plumage tones on upperparts, with sandy-buff or grey tones on Pallas’s correspondingly rufous-brown on Common (most particularly on lesser coverts); more prominent wingbars; smaller size; and proportionately longer tail. In all plumages except breeding male, small amount of streaking on flanks and little to no streaking across breast distinguish from more heavily streaked Common. Except in breeding male, lower mandible usually pink, but slate-grey in Common. VOICE Call a short, sharp chleep, reminiscent of Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Song, often delivered from reed stem, a uniform repetition of a single raspy note. — Craig Brelsford

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

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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