Skip to content

Emberiza melanocephala

warning Endangered
EN (C1)

Contributed: Asaf Mayrose, Avner Rinot, Lior Kislev, Yoav Perlman, Ezra Hadad, Tuvia Kahn, Yosef Kiat, Ido Zurim, Noam Weiss, Yuvak Dax

The Black-headed Bunting is classified as Endangered (EN) due to the continued decline in the size of its population and range. Comparison of population size estimates indicates an annual decline rate of 3% over the last two decades, which exceeds 20% in two generations (7.2 years). In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Vulnerable (VU). The worsening in its threat category reflects the continued decline in its population and the decrease in its range.
EN Current Regional Assessment | VU Previous Regional Assessment | LC World Assessment

Habitats Mountainous Forest, Parks & Woodlands, Bush & Garrigue
Presence In Israel Summer Breeder, Migrant
Nesting In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Long Range
Zoography Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Formations Mountainous, Plains & Valleys
Vegetation Formations Mediterranean Maquis, Mediterranean Garrigue
Vegetation Densities Low, Medium
Nest Locations Tree, Bushes
Diet Types Invertebrate, Herbivore
Foraging Grounds Ground, Trees and Shrubs
Body Sizes Small (up to 500g)
Threat Factors Pesticide Poisoning, Habitat Fragmentation

The Black-headed Bunting is a medium-sized brightly colored bunting with a pleasant trilling song. The male has a black head, a yellow belly and an unstreaked chestnut colored back. The females and immatures are brown-gray and more dull.

The Black-headed Bunting is an extremely rare summer breeder and passage migrant. Its current breeding range is limited almost entirely to the northern Golan Heights and the Mt. Hermon slopes (up to an altitude of 1650 meters), and the number of individuals in these areas has decreased considerably as well. Isolated pairs still nest in the Judean Lowlands, the Bet Netofa Valley and the Eastern Galilee. It was a common summer visitor throughout most of Israel’s Mediterranean region until the 1960s. Since the late 1950s, a declining trend is apparent in its range and population size. The species has disappeared as a breeder in Judea and Samaria, the Carmel and the Western Galilee. The Eastern Galilee and Golan Heights populations have also decreased considerably and become fragmented.

The Black-headed Bunting population that nested in central Israel was apparently affected by habitat modification and destruction and by the use of agricultural pesticides. The main areas presently occupied by the species are the northern Golan Heights and the Mt. Hermon slopes. It is threatened in these areas by habitat modification resulting from development, afforestation and agricultural plantations in the northern Golan Heights, roadbuilding, ski run development and other installations on Mt. Hermon.

No specific conservation measures have been taken for this species to date.

The Black-headed Bunting is an endangered migratory species due to the drastic decline in its population size and range. In recent decades, it has receded from most of its breeding areas in Judea, Samaria, and the Galilee, and is presently breeds mainly in the northern Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon. In light of the accelerated development planned in the Golan Heights, key areas in which the species nests densely should be located, and their preservation ensured.

The Black-headed Bunting has been affected mainly by the destruction and fragmentation of shrubland and open woodland areas, as well as by the use of insecticides in agriculture. Quality breeding grounds in the northern Golan Heights, the main present habitat of the species in Israel, should be preserved.

  • ישראלי, נ. ופרלמן, י. 2013. סיכום סקר עופות מקננים בחרמון. דו"ח מרכז הצפרות של החברה להגנת הטבע.
  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.
  • שוחט, א., פרלמן, י., שני, א., עובדיה, ע., ישראלי, נ., פרלמן, ג. ואלון, ד. 2009. טיבוע ציפורים ארוך טווח בחרמון: תמורות בהרכב החברה ובדינאמיקה של אוכלוסיות.
Contributed: Asaf Mayrose, Avner Rinot, Lior Kislev, Yoav Perlman, Ezra Hadad, Tuvia Kahn, Yosef Kiat, Ido Zurim, Noam Weiss, Yuvak Dax

Current Occupancy Map

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel in the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and nesting density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values as calculated from observation records and expert opinions.

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Breeding density values are based mainly on the book Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Occupancy difference 1990-2020

A map that expresses differences in the breeding distribution between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative value - species previously present but is currently absent, positive value - species has not been recorded previously and is currently present, zero - no change in occupancy.

Relative abundance difference 1990-2020

A map that reflects the changes in the relative abundance of the species between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative values - decline in abundance, positive values - increase in abundance, zero - no change in abundance.

Red number

IUCN category

() districts
% of protected sites

Other Species

Emberiza caesia
Emberiza cia
Emberiza calandra
Emberiza aureola