I feel that like most bird families (with the obvious exception of pheasants), buntings are somewhat underrated. They lack both the flashiness larger birds and the “I am more of an expert birder than you” appeal of warblers. In other words, they are my kind of birds. At my regular birding spot at Nanhui, Shanghai, five or six species of buntings can be seen fairly regularly, and about the same number very occasionally.

Even the male Black-faced Bunting is not very black-faced, and the female is even less so.

The Chestnut Bunting is among the more attractive (and rare) of the buntings showing up here.

Chestnut-eared Bunting

The Japanese Reed Bunting is a rare winter visitor that I find relatively difficult to distinguish from the much more common Pallas Bunting.

Japanese Reed Bunting

Pallas Bunting

The Little Bunting – as the name suggests – is probably the cutest of the family.

Rustic Bunting used to be fairly rare at Nanhui but this winter there are some large flocks.

I am particularly fond of Tristam`s Bunting – maybe the smartest-looking of the family.

The creativity of those who named buntings seems to have been fairly limited – witness the next four buntings that can be found at Nanhui:

Yellow Bunting

Yellow-breasted Bunting (critically endangered due to trapping in Southern China – what a shame!)

Yellow-browed Bunting

Yellow-throated Bunting (used to be called Elegant Bunting, which is a bit more creative …)

Now for some bonus buntings – buntings not usually seen at Nanhui but elsewhere …

Others have seen the Meadow Bunting at Nanhui, but I am still waiting for my first sighting here. The photo was taken at Xiaoyangshan, about 30 km away from Nanhui.

And if you are willing to travel a bit further within China, you can see the Crested Bunting, which arguably has a bit more star quality …

I`ve seen three more buntings – one in Germany (Yellowhammer) and two in South Africa (Cape Bunting, Golden-breasted Bunting).


Cape Bunting

Golden-breasted Bunting

Always interesting to see new species of families one is already familiar with – like cover versions of favorite songs …

And if you want to see even more bunting photos (unlikely, I know), take a look here

Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for almost 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.