Family Old World Buntings (Emberizidae)

Least Concern

Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos)


French: Bruant à calotte blanche German: Fichtenammer Spanish: Escribano cabeciblanco

Emberiza leucocephalos

S. G. Gmelin

, 1771,

Astrakhan, Russia


Sometimes considered conspecific with E. citrinella, but differs clearly in plumage, behaviour and osteology, supporting treatment as separate species. The two hybridize extensively in W & C Siberia, and interbreeding is increasing. See remarks under E. citrinella. Proposed races of present species stachanowi (described from Naryn, in Tien Shan of C Kyrgyzstan) and karpovi (from Chita, in Transbaikalia, and Blagoveshchensk, in SE Russian Amurland) synonymized with nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. l. leucocephalos S. G. Gmelin, 1771 – E European Russia from C & S Ural region (Sverdlovsk district and Chelyabinsk) E across Siberia (N to c. 62° in W and 67° in E) to Russian Far East (upper R Kolyma and mountains N of Sea of Okhotsk), S to N Kazakhstan, C & E Tien Shan, NW & NE China, N Mongolia, and lower R Amur, Sakhalin and S Kuril Is; bulk of population winters from Iran, Afghanistan and N Pakistan E to Nepal, N China and Japan (also tiny numbers in Levant and Europe).
  • E. l. fronto Stresemann, 1930 – NE Qinghai (from E border of Zaidam Depression) E to S Gansu, in NC China.
  • Descriptive notes

    16–17·5 cm; 18·5–37 g. Rather large bunting, similar in size to E. citrinella, but slightly larger, with tail 5–10% longer. Male... read more


    Calls and song very similar structurally to those of E. citrinella, songs being only a... read more


    Prefers edges of forests and clearings in S taiga, also areas devoid of trees following logging or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet during breeding season mainly invertebrates, such as grasshoppers (Orthoptera), bugs (Hemiptera), beetles (Coleoptera), caterpillars (... read more


    Season late Apr to end of Jul, usually most pairs starting during May; normally two broods. Nest built by female, a tightly woven cup of... read more


    Chinese race fronto resident. Nominate race migratory. Autumn migration starts in Aug or... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common. No realistic estimates of global population, since bulk of this breeding in Siberia, where surveys needed; European... read more

    Recommended citation

    Copete, J.L. (2020). Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos). 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 24 February 2020).