Reed bunting

Reed bunting Locustella luscinioides


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Emberizidae
  • Genre: Locustella
  • Species: Locustella luscinioides  

Identification characters

It is a medium-sized prey with a body length of 13.5-15.5 cm. Weighs 10-28 g.

The plumage is predominantly brown and yellowish-white with black stripes and white tail sides. The cheeks are slightly blackish and the legs are reddish-brown or black.

The species is sexually dimorphic. In summer the male has a black head and throat with a white stripe on the neck and whisker. Males are usually distinguished by a dark or irregularly mottled throat. Females have an unblemished, yellowish-white throat centre with distinct black lines down the sides.

The suralps are small, reddish-brown. The cheeks are slightly blackish. Legs are reddish brown or black.

Although the reed bunting is a discreet species, well camouflaged in the vegetation, in the nesting season the male can easily be seen and heard singing from reed stems or from the tops of bushes.


The reed bunting is widespread throughout most of Eurasia and winters in northern Africa. The European population accounts for 35% of the world population and ranges from 4,060,000 to 7,020,000 breeding pairs, with a moderate decline between 1980 and 2013.

In Romania, the reed bunting population ranges from 51 010 to 124 218 breeding pairs. In Romania the distribution of the species is fragmented, conditioned by the presence of reed habitat. It nests from lowland areas and the Danube Delta to hilly areas.

Living environment and biology of the species

The reed bunting inhabits wet reedy areas such as marshes, lakes or slow-flowing waters. In winter, most of the birds that have summer-hatched in Romania head for wintering grounds in north-east Africa and south-west Asia, where they are replaced by populations of a northern subspecies, along with some of the subspecies that has been hatching here. Maximum longevity in the wild is 11 years and two months.

Food consists predominantly of various seeds. This plant food, especially during the critical brood-rearing period, is supplemented with small invertebrates.

The breeding season lasts from April to July. Males settle at the top of a bush or reed stalk. They sing to attract females. When they sense a potential danger, with a sudden, uneven, bouncing flight, they quickly hide in the reeds. The female builds her nest in a bush or on a clump of reed strands of grass, twigs or reed leaves, very close to the ground and lines the inside of the nest is lined with moss. The clutch consists of 3-6 greenish-brown eggs with dark-brown ornamentation. The female hatches more. Incubation lasts about 14 days. The chicks are fed insects by both parents. If necessary, predators in the vicinity of the nest are chased away from the nest by one of the parents. To ward off danger from the nest, the vigilant parent feigns injury by crawling on the ground or flying with wings partially open. The chicks become able to leave the nest after 9-12 days.

A pair may have two or even three broods per year, depending on environmental conditions.

Threats and conservation measures

The main threat is related to the loss and degradation of reed wetlands and their poor management through intensive reed cutting or drainage, water pollution. An important negative aspect is the burning of reeds, as the species prefers nesting areas with compact, tall reeds left over from previous years.

Conservation measures include: observance of building restrictions in riparian areas, management of marsh vegetation to maintain it at an ecologically optimal level for the species, prohibition of burning of riparian vegetation, maintenance and conservation of reed beds with permanent water as a characteristic habitat, prohibition of harvesting or burning of reeds, proper waste and wastewater management around wetlands, measures to avoid eutrophication and sedimentation of wetlands, management of water levels in aquatic ecosystems to ensure the ecological needs of the species. Uncultivated strips of at least 1.5 m should be maintained between cultivated land and wetlands, where the use of chemicals is strictly prohibited, and the use of selective and low toxicity agrochemicals should be encouraged and the use of treated seeds on neighbouring land avoided, encouraging organic production.

It is recommended to inventory current and potential breeding areas, identify important migration, feeding and aggregation areas and promote studies on various aspects of the species’ biology, including demographic parameters.


    • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests- Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 576-577;
    • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Passerines p. 278, Chancellor Press, London
    • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation in Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.392;
    • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 124;
    • Ornitodata | Presură de stuf (
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