Saturday, 17 January 2015

Day 77 - Remarkable Reed Bunting

Hello all and a happy Saturday. 

Today I've found a lovely little bird here that looks a bit different in its winter plumage in these pictures, looks a bit sparrow-like, to its more striking summer plumage but beautiful all the same. It's a bird that I've seen in Norfolk (at Horsey and Titchwell), at Leighton Moss and at Fairburn Ings where these pictures are from.

I'm looking today at Reed Buntings. So what have I found out about these little guys?

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus

  • They are resident across most of the UK with a quarter of a million breeding territories. 
  • Despite these numbers they have Amber status, and have been red status, due to numbers falling since 1969. This is probably due to loss of habitat and agricultural intensification.
  • As I mentioned above it looks a bit like a sparrow and its country names include Fen Sparrow or Reed Sparrow.
  • They are only 16cm long with a wingspan of 24cm. They weigh only 21g.
    Reed bunting at Fairburn Ings
  • It seems they have an interesting breeding strategy. Often, less than half of the chicks in a brood will not have been fathered by the pair male.
  • Another interesting survival tactic is that they make their nest low down in dense vegetation. If they spy a predator nearby the adults will often try to lure them away by acting injured.
  • There doesn't seem to be a collective noun specifically for a reed bunting, but collections of buntings in general are known as a decoration, a mural and a sacrifice (think I prefer the first two!)

  • Their sharp call I've seen written as 'shreep-shreep-teeree-tititick' but you can make your own mind up if you listen to the video I found here.
  • Their diet is mainly seeds, but they do eat insects in the breeding season.  When food gets scarcer in winter they will visit bird tables on occasion, but also join flocks of finches and other birds to look for seeds in farmland.
  • Their typical lifespan is 3 years but the oldest recorded reed bunting was 9 years and 11 months!
  • I was quite surprised to read that their eggs weigh just 2.2g, and 6% of that is shell. So these little birds emerge almost from nothing!

So if you want to find out more about these lovely birds, try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. When it gets really cold we sometimes get a Reed Bunting in the garden. Great blog post.

  2. Thanks Findlay. Not a bird I've see in my garden yet but I do see them quite often on trips out. Did see two moorhens just over the hedge this morning, first time I've seen them around here.