Reed bunting

Reed Bunting

©Amy Lewis

Reed Bunting

©Chris Lawrence

Reed bunting

Scientific name: Emberiza schoeniclus
A streaky brown bird, the reed bunting can be found in wetlands, reedbeds and on farmland across the UK. Males sport black heads and a white 'moustache'.

Species information


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

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


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

How to identify

The reed bunting is a streaky brown bird. The males have black heads and black throats, with a white collar and white 'moustache'. Female buntings, including female Yellowhammers and reed buntings, can be very difficult to tell apart.



Did you know?

Reed buntings will sometimes visit garden birdtables, especially in cold winters.
The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature.


Reed Bunting by John Bridges