Family Old World Buntings (Emberizidae)

Least Concern

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)


French: Bruant des roseaux German: Rohrammer Spanish: Escribano palustre
Other common names: Eurasian Reed Bunting, Common Reed Bunting

Fringilla Schœniclus


, 1758,



Closely related to E. yessoensis and E. pallasi, and all three sometimes placed in genus Schoeniclus. Race minor sometimes included in E. pallasi. Geographical variation complex and considerable within wide range; broadly, N races are smaller, with thinner bill, and S races larger, with thicker bill with strongly curved culmen; also clinal variation evident, birds becoming paler from W to E of species’ range. For convenience, races can be divided into four groups, i.e. “northern group”, “eastern group”, “central group” and “southern group”; these perhaps represent more than one species, e.g. in N Italy apparent lack of interbreeding between thin-billed nominate race and thick-billed intermedia where the two meet, and clear (though weak) degree of genetic differentiation detected between them. Song divergence possibly a significant factor in incipient speciation#R. Almost 40 races described, some representing points along a cline, others based on trivial differences, and these considered not to merit recognition. In addition, contradictory statements in the literature and, in some cases, inadequate information make delimitation of races difficult; ranges and descriptions given below are provisional and to some extent tentative, and should be treated with a degree of caution. Other proposed races include goplanae (described from Warsaw, in Poland), mackenziei (from South Uist, in Outer Hebrides) and turonensis (from Mézières-en-Brenne, in Indre Department of C France), all synonymized with nominate, and pallidissima (from Verkhy Karelina, in upper R Nizhnyaya Tunguska, and Olekminsk, in WC Siberia), treated as synonym of parvirostris. Thorough review required. Twenty subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. s. lusitanica F. Steinbacher, 1930 – NW Spain and Portugal.
  • E. s. schoeniclus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Northern Reed Bunting – Europe from Scandinavia E to Pechora Basin and Urals, S to British Is, most of France, W Austria, N Italy, and across SW Russia; winters S to N Africa and SW Asia.
  • E. s. passerina Pallas, 1771 – NW Siberia from lower R Ob E to lower R Yenisey and lower R Khatanga (in Taymyr); winters in S Asia E to N India and W China.
  • E. s. parvirostris Buturlin, 1910 – C Siberia (E to C Yakutia); winters in NW & N China.
  • E. s. pyrrhulina (Swinhoe, 1876) – E Siberia (Kamchatka), Kuril Is and N Japan (Hokkaido); winters in C Japan, Korea and E China.
  • E. s. minor Middendorff, 1853 – Eastern Reed Bunting – Transbaikalia E to Russian Far East and NE China (Heilongjiang); winters in E China.
  • E. s. stresemanni F. Steinbacher, 1930 – E Austria, Hungary and N Serbia.
  • E. s. ukrainae (Zarudny, 1917) – Ukraine and adjacent SW Russia.
  • E. s. incognita (Zarudny, 1917) – SE European Russia E to N Kazakhstan.
  • E. s. pallidior E. J. O. Hartert, 1904 – Central Reed Bunting – SW Siberia (in basins of R Tobol and R Irtysh) E to L Baikal; winters in SW & SC Asia.
  • E. s. witherbyi Jordans, 1923 – Mediterranean coast of France, Sardinia, Balearic Is, Spain (except NW) and N Africa (NW Morocco).
  • E. s. intermedia Degland, 1849 – Italy and Adriatic coast S to NW Albania.
  • E. s. tschusii Reiser & Almásy, 1898 – R Danube in Bulgaria and Romania, and in N Black Sea region and Sea of Azov coast.
  • E. s. reiseri E. J. O. Hartert, 1904 – SE Albania, NW Greece, S Macedonia and W & C Turkey.
  • E. s. caspia Ménétries, 1832 – E Turkey E to E Transcaucasia and N & NW Iran, possibly also in Syria.
  • E. s. korejewi (Zarudny, 1907) – SW & E Iran and S Turkmenistan.
  • E. s. pyrrhuloides Pallas, 1811 – Southern Reed Bunting – N Caspian Sea region (from R Terek) E to W Mongolia, L Balkhash (SE Kazakhstan) and C Tien Shan; non-breeding also to SW & C Asia.
  • E. s. harterti Sushkin, 1906 – extreme S Russia (S Tuva), extreme E Kazakhstan and extreme NW China (NW Xinjiang).
  • E. s. centralasiae E. J. O. Hartert, 1904 – Tarim Basin E to Lop Nur, in Xinjiang (W China).
  • E. s. zaidamensis Portenko, 1929 – Zaidam Depression, in NW Qinghai (W China).
  • Descriptive notes

    14–16·5 cm; 10–28 g (C Europe). Small to medium-sized or rather large bunting, variable both in body size and in bill size. Male nominate race breeding is... read more


    Song, from top of bush or reeds, normally a short series of repetitive units, delivered as brief... read more


    Generally in marshy areas where areas of scrubby growth occurs around reeds, and in areas of tall... read more

    Food and feeding

    During breeding season mostly invertebrates; diet otherwise mainly seeds and other plant material. Large-billed races mostly insectivorous... read more


    Season early Apr to end Aug, depending on latitude and altitude; in European Russia eggs laid late Jun to early Jul, and in Siberia and... read more


    Those breeding in S of range resident, or making only short movements. Populations in N, from... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common or locally common. Estimated European population towards end of 20th century a minimum of 4,800,000 pairs, with largest... read more

    Recommended citation

    Copete, J.L. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus). 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 21 January 2020).