Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

A sparrow-sized bird of reedbeds, wetlands and farmland, the reed bunting feeds on seeds and invertebrates. Reed buntings are streaky, brown birds. The males have black heads and black throats, with a white collar and white ‘moustache’. Female reed buntings and female yellowhammers can be very difficult to tell apart.


During the breeding season, males can be spotted perched high on reeds, rushes or scrub, voicing their simple three-note territorial call. Females nest low in the dense vegetation, constructing the nest from grass, reeds and moss. If a predator comes close, it may be drawn away by one of the adults acting as if injured. In the winter, reed buntings join mixed-species flocks of buntings, finches and sparrows to feed on seed in farmland.


  • Length: 16cm
  • Wingspan: 24cm
  • Weight: 21g
  • Average Lifespan: 3 years


Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.



When to see

January – December


  • Reed buntings will sometimes visit garden birdtables, especially in cold winters.

Common name

Reed bunting

Species name

Emberiza schoeniclus

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Knockshinnock Lagoons or Loch Ardinning.

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