Family Old World Buntings (Emberizidae)

Least Concern

Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala)


French: Bruant masqué German: Maskenammer Spanish: Escribano carinegro

Emberiza spodocephala


, 1776,

Daurian Range, southern Chita, south-eastern Siberia, Russia


Sometimes placed in genus Schoeniclus or, in the past, in Ocyris. Hitherto treated as conspecific with E. personata; see that species. Nominate race exhibits slight clinal variation in colour, with increasing green on crown, nape and throat and more yellowish underparts from W to E, but individual variation also significant, and populations at extremes of cline not well differentiated; proposed races oligoxantha (described from Kuznetsk region of SC Siberia) and extremiorientis (from S Ussuriland) represent respective ends of this cline. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. s. spodocephala Pallas, 1776 – from C Siberia (Novokuznetsk and Krasnoyarsk) E to S coast of Sea of Okhotsk, N Sakhalin and Sea of Japan coast, S to Sayan Mts, Altai, N Mongolia (Khentii Mts), Transbaikalia, NE China (Heilongjiang), SE Russia (Ussuriland) and N Korea; winters in S & E China (S Yunnan and Hainan E to Fujian) and Taiwan.
  • E. s. sordida Blyth, 1845 – EC China from N Gansu and NE Qinghai S to W Sichuan and N Yunnan (S to Yangtze Valley), E to N Hubei, and occasionally in C Guizhou and W Hunan; winters in area from C Nepal E to NE India, N Myanmar and N Indochina.
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–16 cm; 13–27 g. Male nominate race breeding has head to breast olive-grey (becoming greener from W to E of range), contrasting blackish lores and chin... read more


    Song of nominate, usually from inside bush or low tree, consists of variable succession of ringing... read more


    Breeds in shrubby and tall dense grass areas with interspersed trees along watercourses and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Adult diet during breeding mainly adult and larval invertebrates, such as small cicadas (Cicadidae) and other bugs (Hemiptera), flies (... read more


    Season starts usually between May and mid Jun, depending on location and altitude, with fledglings as late as Sept; two broods. Nest, built... read more


    Migratory. Leaves Siberian breeding grounds during early Sept and NE China (Heilongjiang) in Oct;... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common in suitable habitat throughout range; one of the commonest buntings in E Asia. Common also in non-breeding range. Global... read more

    Recommended citation

    Copete, J.L. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 November 2019).