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Yellow-Breasted Bunting

Creative Commons photo by Baatargal Otgonbayar

This bright-yellow bird may look like another colourful songbird, but in parts of China and Southeast Asia it is eaten as a delicacy. The Yellow-breasted Bunting was commonly found as far away as Finland, but has all but disappeared from Europe and the northern parts of Siberia and Japan. The birds now migrate mostly from Siberia to wintering grounds in China and the shores of Southeast Asia.

With only a handful of these birds left—declining by 80 per cent within 10 years, according to BirdLife International—the Bunting is registered as endangered by the IUCN Red List. By far the biggest problem for this species is illegal hunting on wintering grounds. The increased popularity of the “Rice bird,” as it is known in Asia, has led to a profitable black market business. These birds are so prized that at one market in Sanshui, China at least 10,000 birds are sold each day.

As land reclamation shrinks its habitats and hunters continue to seek out more birds, the Yellow-breasted Bunting is creeping closer to extinction.

Scientific Name

  • Emberiza aureola

Quick Facts

  • Known as the “Rice Bird” in China because the birds winter in rice fields
  • Formerly found in Finland/Siberia to China and Southeast Asia
  • All but disappeared from Eastern Europe
  • European population declining by 80% in 10 years, 25% in 3 years
  • Flyway: African-Eurasian, East Asian-Australasian

IUCN Red List Status

Main Threats

  • Overharvesting: illegal hunting/trapping
  • Habitat loss from Land Reclamation


Map courtesy of IUCN, BirdLife International and the Handbook of Birds of the World 2016

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