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Yellow-breasted Bunting

Emberiza aureola

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Male: Dark chestnut upperparts, black head, yellow below with dark flank streaks, chestnut chest band

Yellow-breasted Bunting - Emberiza aureolaThe Yellow-breasted Bunting is normally found in eastern Europe and Asia, but it has been found on very rare occasions in islands off the west coast of Alaska.  It is a poorly-understood species.  At the start of the 21st century, they were considered a species of "Least Concern" by the IUCN, with no indications of widespread population issues.  Since then, it has become apparent that the species is in very rapid decline and populations were not as large as once believed.  Since 2004 the species has moved from "Least Concern" to "Vulnerable" to "Endangered", on the IUCN watch list.  While some of the decline has been attributed to habitat loss, particularly in their wintering range in southeast Asia where land has been converted to intensive agricultural use, the majority of the decline is likely due to direct capture of the birds.  In parts of southeast Asia, Yellow-breasted Buntings and other songbirds are caught in large numbers in mist nets, and sold as food.

Habitat: During the summer breeding season, Yellow-breasted Buntings are found in marshes and wet meadows, particularly those with tall herbaceous vegetation and scattered shrubs.  They can be found in a wider variety of habitats during migration and the winter months, including grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural land.

Diet: Feeds heavily on seeds, but will also take insects and other small invertebrates, particularly during the breeding season.

Behavior: Most feeding is done on the ground or low in vegetation.

Nesting: The nest is a cup made of grasses, lined with finer grasses and animal hair.  The nest is placed close to or on the ground, such as in a shrub or on the ground in a tussock of vegetation.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  Both parents help feed and tend the young, once the eggs hatch.

Song: A clear warble of distinct phrases.

Migration: Migratory.  Yellow-breasted Buntings breed in far eastern Europe (Finland, Belarus, Ukraine) and in Russia, northern Japan, and Mongolia.  Wintering birds are primarily found in southern Asia.

Feeders: Will attend feeders for millet, peanuts, and suet.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Yellow-breasted Bunting sightings

Similar Species: Distinctive if seen well.

Conservation Status: Populations have been in sharp decline in recent years.  The IUCN lists the Yellow-breasted Bunting as an "Endangered" species.

Further Information: 1) BirdLife International - Yellow-breasted Bunting

2) WhatBird - Yellow-breasted Bunting

3) Beauty of Birds - Yellow-breasted Bunting

Photo Information: Public Domain image.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Yellow-breasted Bunting - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Yellow-breasted Bunting Photos (coming soon!!)