Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Key facts

Scientific name: Calcarius lapponicus
Status: Winter visitor, occasional breeder

Wintering birds: 710 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Longspurs

Length: 15 – 16 cm
Wingspan: 25 – 28 cm
Weight: 20 – 28 g


In breeding season, adult male Lapland buntings have heavily streaked brown, white, black, and buff upperparts with a pale, grey rump. The upperwing coverts are black with pale buff edges and the flight feathers are dark brown with chestnut edges. The tail is dark brown with white tips to the outermost rectrices. The upper breast is back and the rest of the underparts are pale buff with black streaks on the flanks.

The face, crown, chin, and throat are black and the nape is rufous. There is a conspicuous white supercilium that extends from the eye to behind the ear coverts and joins a white band that extends down the sides of the head to the sides of the breast. The pointed bill is yellow or orange with a black tip, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are dark brown with an elongated hind claw.

Out of breeding season, male Lapland buntings have duller plumage overall. The upperparts are streaked and browner and the upperwing is more rufous. The upper breast is dark and the rest of the underparts are white with brown streaks on the flanks.

On the head the crown is dark and the face is pale brown with black along the ear coverts. The supercilium is pale buff and the bill is dull brown.

Female Lapland buntings in breeding plumage look like non-breeding males but with less black on the breast. The head is paler with a darker lateral crown stipe, eye stripe, and moustachial and malar stripes, and a white supercilium and band behind the ear coverts.

In non-breeding plumage, females are duller and paler with no black on the breast and a grey-brown nape. The bill is pinky-brown.

Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but are duller with more streaks.


Lapland buntings breed during the summer and produce 1 brood a season. They breed in tundra, Arctic regions, and heathland. The female builds the nest on the ground which is a cup-shaped structure made with grass and moss and lined with finer grasses, fur and feathers.

Lapland buntings lay 4-6 smooth, glossy, pale grey-green eggs with mottled reddish-brown and dark spots which are incubated the female alone for 12-13 days. The male will sometimes feed her while she is at the nest. The chicks are fed by both parents and leave the nest at about 8-10 days after hatching and before they can fly to avoid predation. They are able to run in grass and start flying at 13-15 days. Parents divide the brood equally and rear the young separately.


In summer, Lapland buntings eat primarily on insects, such as flies, beetles, caterpillars, and spiders as well as seeds. In winter it switches to a mostly seed-based diet from grasses, herbs, and sedges, and grain.

Lapland Bunting

Where to see them

Lapland buntings arrive in the UK from northern Europe in September and leave again in April. They can be found along the southern and east coasts of England and the east coast of Scotland.


Niels Van Doninck/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Lapland buntings breed in areas where there is almost continuous daylight and although breeding males may sing at any time of the day, they sing the most early in the morning, despite the lack of a real dawn.

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