British Garden Birds Site Map Album Info Quiz Shop Links About Visit us on facebook Visit us on twitter

(Common) Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting
Male: Upperparts are brown with dark streaking. Black head and throat with white collar.
Female Reed Bunting
Female: Like the male but with brown head and throat and no white collar.

The Reed Bunting is a bunting of similar size and appearance to a House Sparrow, but the underparts are streaked and the outer tail feathers are white. The legs and bill are dark brown.

The male Reed Bunting has a dark head and bib, which are black in the summer and dull brown in winter. A broad white collar is evident in the summer as is a thin white moustache (which can also be seen in winter, but is more buff coloured).

The female can be confused with the female House Sparrow, which has a shorter tail, and the female Yellowhammer, which has no moustache. The female has a brown head, buff throat and buff-coloured lines above and below the eye.

Juveniles are similar to the female but yellowier and more darkly streaked.

In flight, the outer white tail feathers are noticeable.

Winter Male
Winter Male

Scientific Name Emberiza schoeniclus
Length 15-16 cm  (6-6½")
Wing Span 21-25 cm  (8-10")
Weight 15-21 g  (½-¾ oz)
Breeding Pairs 220000
Present All Year
Status Amber

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The Reed Bunting's song is a rather dreary staccato chirrup that is often written as "tweek, tweek, tititweek". Personally, I remember it as "tree, tree, top of tree" because it is usually delivers its song from a perch at the top of a tree, bush or reed.


© Jean Roché,


Reed Buntings are traditionally birds of reed beds and wetlands where they feed on seeds and invertebrates during the breeding season, but they have started to visit gardens.


The nest is a cup of grass and moss built on the ground but usually among reeds or grasses in a wet or marshy place. Fine grasses and hair are used to line the cup.

The female incubates the eggs (20 mm by 15 mm), which are smooth, glossy and pale lilac or olive with black scrawls or blotches. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April-May 2-3 4-7 12-14 10-13


The Reed Bunting is an Amber List species because it is recovering from a severe population decline that started in the 1970's, which was a result of increased egg failures and poor survival rates among fledglings.