Family Old World Buntings (Emberizidae)

Least Concern

Grey Bunting (Emberiza variabilis)


French: Bruant gris German: Bambusammer Spanish: Escribano gris

Emberiza variabilis


, 1836,

northern Japan


Sometimes placed in genus Schoeniclus or, in the past, in Ocyris. Birds from Kamchatka sometimes separated as race musica. Monotypic.


E Russia (S Kamchatka), Kuril Is, S Sakhalin and Japan (Hokkaido S to C Honshu). Winters mainly in S half of Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Ryukyu Is (S to Okinawa); rarely in S Korea.

Descriptive notes

14–17 cm; 20·9–30 g. Male breeding is distinctive, sometimes with dusky lores, other­wise entire head, upperparts and underparts dark slate-grey,... read more


Song, from inconspicuous perch inside bush or undergrowth, usually starts with soft drawn-out note... read more


Favours mixed deciduous and coniferous forest at middle and subalpine elevations, usually with... read more

Food and feeding

Diet insufficiently known; appears to include small invertebrates, seeds and small fruits and berries. Usually forages on ground. Secretive... read more


Season begins during Jun, with peak in Jul. Nest built from twigs and dead leaves of dwarf bamboo, also grasses, located on stems of dwarf... read more


Migratory. Autumn migration begins in Aug in N part of range, but main passage in Kuril Is during... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon in most of range; locally common. Global population not reliably estimated, but no signs of decrease and considered stable. read more

Recommended citation

Copete, J.L. (2020). Grey Bunting (Emberiza variabilis). 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 17 February 2020).