Reed Bunting

Emberiza schoeniclus


A sparrow-sized bird of reedbeds, wetlands and farmland, the Reed Bunting feeds on seeds and invertebrates. In the winter, Reed Buntings join mixed-species flocks of buntings, finches and sparrows to feed on seed in farmland. During the breeding season, males can be spotted perched high on reeds, rushes or scrub, voicing their simple three-note territorial call. Females nest low in the dense vegetation, constructing the nest from grass, reeds and moss. If a predator comes close, it may be drawn away by one of the adults acting as if injured.

How to identify

Reed Buntings are streaky, brown birds. The males have black heads and black throats, with a white collar and white 'moustache'. Female buntings, including female Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, can be very difficult to tell apart.

Where to find it



When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Since the 1970s, the UK's breeding population of Reed Buntings has decreased dramatically by 67% - a decline mirrored by many of our farmland birds. The drainage of our wetlands, changes in agricultural practices and urban development have all had detrimental effects on farmland birds, but The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Reed Bunting
Latin name
Emberiza schoeniclus
Finches and Buntings
Length: 16cm Wingspan: 24cm Weight: 21g Average Lifespan: 3 years
Conservation status
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.