email a friend
printable version
Yellow Bunting Emberiza sulphurata
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This bunting qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small and declining population, probably resulting from a combination of habitat loss, pesticide use and hunting throughout its range.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

14 cm. Olive-green and yellow bunting. Black lores. Greenish-yellow crown, sides of head and hindneck. Olive-green mantle streaked with black. Olive-grey lower back, rump and uppertail-coverts. Lemon-yellow underparts becoming paler on belly and green and streaked on flanks. White tips to median and greater coverts form double wing-bar.

Distribution and population
Emberiza sulphurata breeds in Japan, and is thought to winter mainly in the Philippines (where its stronghold may be Ilocos Norte [D. Allen in litt. 2012]), although some birds have wintered in Japan and Taiwan (China) in the past (BirdLife International 2001). There are non-breeding records, mainly of birds on passage, from North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong (China) and the coast of mainland China and Taiwan. It is generally uncommon in its restricted breeding range in Japan, and it appears to have declined significantly during the 20th century.

Population justification
The global population is roughly estimated to be in the band c.2,500-9,999 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2001). This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. National population estimates include: < c.1,000 individuals on migration and < c.1,000 wintering individuals in China; c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan and < c.100,000 breeding pairs and < c.1,000 individuals on migration in Japan (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected to be occurring, as the species has become scarcer on its breeding grounds in Japan. Declines are likely to be occurring owing to habitat degradation and loss through agricultural intensification, as well as trapping for the cage-bird trade.

It breeds from c.600-1,500 m, in deciduous and mixed forests, on wooded slopes and in high valleys, around woodland edges and in park-like areas with shrubs and thickets. It nests in bushes or on the ground. On migration, it occurs in shrubby clearings in open woodland, in low secondary growth and open cultivated land with bushes and thickets, and sometimes in open grasslands. In its wintering range, it is found in grasslands, scrub, pine forest and cultivated areas, up to 1,500 m.

Its decline has probably been a result of a combination of habitat loss, high levels of pesticide use and trapping for the bird trade.

Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in Japan, North Korea and Hong Kong. It occurs in some National Wildlife Protection Areas in central Honshu, Japan, including Asama (Gunma and Nagano prefectures), the North Alps (Toyama, Nagano and Gifu prefectures) and Katano Duck Pond (Ishikawa prefecture). Some of its breeding and staging grounds are also protected as prefecture protection areas, such as Nikko (Tochigi prefecture), Myoko-san (Niigata prefecture), Nojiri-ko (Nagano prefecture), Matsunaga-wan (Hiroshima prefecture) and Kakara-jima (Saga prefecture).Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the status of its breeding population and carry out surveys to establish its main wintering area. Coordinate a study of the decline and conservation requirements of migratory passerines in Asia. Ensure it is legally protected across its entire range. Study its habitat requirements during winter and make land management recommendations (D. Allen in litt. 2012). Assess the level of threat posed by nocturnal trapping during migration (D. Allen in litt. 2012).

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J.

Allen, D.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Emberiza sulphurata. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Yellow bunting (Emberiza sulphurata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Emberizidae (Buntings, American sparrows and allies)
Species name author Temminck & Schlegel, 1848
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 112,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species