Red Headed Bunting Bird (Emberiza bruniceps)

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The Red headed bunting bird, Emberiza bruniceps, is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a group now separated by most modern authors from the finches, Fringillidae.

Emberiza bruniceps is one of many species whose entire global population winters in the Indian Subcontinent. It breeds largely in Central Asia and winters in western, central, and northwestern India although few individuals reach South India every year.

The red headed birds have mainly red-brown plumage with darker wings and tails, and a pale yellow underside with no visible markings, leading to their other name – the yellow-bellied bunting bird. The belly is noticeably paler than the back.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland.

The red headed bunting bird was first described by French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1831 after collecting the type specimen while traveling in Peru with his older brother, King Luís I of Spain, and his younger brother, King Ferdinand VII of Spain.


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Red headed bunting bird is large and stocky with a long tail. Breeding males are easily distinguished by their rusty-red heads and yellow bodies; non-breeding males are characterized by a restricted pattern of red on their heads and a streaky brown back.

Females and juveniles have pale brown plumage with streaks on the back and wings; these colors can be difficult to differentiate from those of the Black-headed Bunting.

There are several characteristics of the Red-headed that distinguish it from other species, including less extensive crown streaking, a less compact appearance (a longer bill and longer tail), a lack of yellow underparts, and colder back color.

In the summer, red headed bunting bird breeds in open dry spaces with scattered bushes, and in the winter it spends time in agricultural fields. Song begins with a few raspy, dry notes, then morphs into a jumble of more fluid sounds.

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Red headed bunting bird scientific name

The scientific name of the red headed bunting is Emberiza bruniceps

Range and habitat

Breeding areas for red-headed buntings include open scrubby areas and agricultural land. There is a large population of this species in central Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia; the Russian Federation (European Russia, Central Asian Russia), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This species is a migratory songbird, spending the winter in India and Bangladesh.

Despite its close relationship to the black-headed bunting, this species’ status in western Europe is somewhat misunderstood by escapes, especially since this species occurs more frequently than its closely related cousin.

Size and weight

The red headed bunting bird weighs in at an average of 24 to 28 grams (0.85 to 0.99 oz), with males being slightly heavier than females. Their total body length is around 16 to 17 cm (6.3 to 6.7 inches) and has a wingspan of around 24 to 28 cm (9.4 to 11.0 inches).

Feathers and plumage

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In the male, the crown, throat, and breast are rufous chestnut, and the back and underbody of the bird are olive-yellow. The rump is yellow with whitish wing bars.

In females, the underparts are paler, the back is grey-brown, and the head is greyish. In addition, both the juveniles and adults are similar, making it difficult to distinguish them from black-headed buntings in their corresponding plumages.
Despite its pale brown color and streaks, the female has a yellowish rump.

Diet and foraging

The natural food of the red headed bunting bird is seeds or insects when it is feeding young.

Sounds and vocal behavior

Red headed bunting bird gives a jerky sweet-sweet-churri-churri-churri song, sung from a high perch.


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Breeding takes place in central Asia. As a migratory bird, it spends the winter in India. This species is a potential vagrant in western Europe, where escapes have caused confusion regarding its status, particularly since this species is more commonly recorded than a closely related species, the Black-headed Bunting, despite the latter’s broader breeding range in western Europe.

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There are several open scrubby areas, including agricultural lands, where the Red-headed Bunting breeds. This species lays three to five eggs in a nest that is usually found in a tree or bush.


This bird has an average lifespan of 1 to 2 years but can live up to 3 years in captivity.

Diseases and threats

The most common danger these birds face is their natural predators, such as sparrowhawks and harriers. Hunting birds of prey swoop down on them and catch them in the air or kill them while they are roosting in trees at night. Other threats include forest fires, pesticides, and drought.

Population status

The red headed bunting bird is a migratory bird native to the southern area of the United States. They are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources list as Least Concern and are federally protected by Migratory Bird Treaty Act.