Pine Bunting

Pine Bunting
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto, male, Dulan Mountains (36.457250, 98.502583), Qinghai, China, elev. 3820 m (12,710 ft.), July. Race fronto is endemic to northern Qinghai and adjacent Gansu. (Craig Brelsford)
Pine Bunting
Female leucocephalos, Tianshan (43.469304, 87.196591), Xinjiang, elev. 2080 m (6,820 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)

Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos leucocephalos breeds Tianshan and Altai Mountains in Xinjiang and around Hulun Lake in northern Inner Mongolia, wintering from northeast China along a swath running southwestward to southeast Qinghai; and fronto resident eastern border of Qaidam Basin in Qinghai to southern Gansu. HABITAT Forest edge and clearings in forests; also agricultural land with trees. ID & COMPARISON Very similar to Yellowhammer E. citrinella, with which it hybridizes in western Siberia. Large, rufous bunting with distinctive head pattern. Breeding male leucocephalos has black lateral crown-stripes that meet on forehead and frame white crown. Black border (sometimes incomplete) also surrounds white ear coverts and cheek. Brick-red supercilium, chin, and throat, the three connected by brick-red line behind black border of ear coverts. Nape grey. Rufous-brown from mantle to uppertail coverts, with black streaking on mantle. Narrow white wingbars. Underparts show white breast band and rufous streaking on breast and flanks and white on belly and vent. Winter male paler, browner, with black streaks on crown and only hint of facial pattern (but retains white patch on ear coverts). Female like non-breeding male but rufous hue even weaker, notably on supercilium, throat, and underparts. Race fronto has broader lateral crown-stripes and is deeper rufous. BARE PARTS Upper mandible blackish-grey, lower mandible horn-grey; feet brownish-pink. VOICE Nearly identical to Yellowhammer. Song 5 to 12 similar notes, final note drawn out and descending. Downslurred call, tiyoo; short dzik. — Craig Brelsford


Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto, song, Dulan Mountains (36.457250, 98.502583), Qinghai, China, elev. 3820 m (12,710 ft.), July, by Craig Brelsford (0:09; 2 MB)

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

Crested Bunting Emberiza lathami
Pine Bunting E. leucocephalos
Yellowhammer E. citrinella
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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