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Species Guide
A photo of a Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos), male
Pine Bunting, Male

Pine Bunting

Emberiza leucocephalos

The Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos) is a robust bird, measuring 16–17.5 centimeters in length, with a stout bill adapted for seed consumption. Males are distinguished by their white crowns and cheeks, a chestnut-colored forehead and throat, and a heavily streaked brown back. Females are considerably duller, with more pronounced streaking on their undersides. In non-breeding plumage, this species resembles a Yellowhammer, but with all yellow replaced by white.

Identification Tips

To identify the Pine Bunting, look for the male's distinctive white crown and cheeks, combined with the chestnut forehead and throat. The female is less conspicuous, with a duller appearance and more streaking below. During non-breeding seasons, both sexes may be confused with the Yellowhammer, but the absence of yellow in the plumage is a key differentiator.


The Pine Bunting is found in a variety of open landscapes with some scrub or trees, including cultivated areas. It shows a preference for open forests, particularly those dominated by pine trees.


This species breeds across much of temperate Asia and migrates southward to central Asia, northern India, and southern China for the winter. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe, though it sometimes winters in north-east Italy and Tuscany.


The Pine Bunting is known for its adaptability to various open habitats and its migratory patterns that lead it to warmer regions during the winter months.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Pine Bunting are similar to those of the Yellowhammer, characterized by a series of melodious chirps and trills.


Breeding occurs across a wide swath of temperate Asia. The Pine Bunting nests on the ground, laying four to six eggs adorned with the characteristic hair-like markings of buntings.

Similar Species

The Pine Bunting can be confused with the Yellowhammer, especially in non-breeding plumage. However, the lack of yellow in the Pine Bunting's plumage is a distinguishing feature. Hybrids between Pine Buntings and Yellowhammers exhibit a mix of characteristics from both species.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Pine Bunting consists primarily of seeds. During the breeding season, insects are also consumed to feed the young.

Conservation status

The Pine Bunting is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it currently faces no significant threats to its population.

Pine Bunting Sounds

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