BirdLife species factsheet for Yellow-breasted Bunting Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola breeds across the northern Palaearctic from Finland, Belarus and Ukraine in the west, through Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia, to far eastern Russia, Korea and northern Japan. In the autumn, birds stop over in large numbers to moult in the Yangtze Valley, China before continuing on to their winter quarters. It winters throughout a relatively small area in southern and south-east Asia which includes eastern Nepal, north-east India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand (Byers et al. 1995). It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criterion A2acd+3cd+4acd because, although it remains abundant locally, anecdotal evidence suggests that overall it has undergone a rapid population decline owing mainly to trapping on wintering grounds. It was formerly one of the most abundant breeding passerines across vast swathes of Siberia, but a severe decline has been noted in most breeding areas and it has completely disappeared from parts of its former breeding range over the last twenty years. No birds have bred in Finland in the last three years and its range has contracted northwards by 300 km in Kazakhstan over the last 15 years. It is estimated to have declined by at least 70% during 2000-2010 in European Russia, with declines reported in the Moscow, Novgorod, Kostroma, Ulyanovsk and Baikal regions (A. Mischenko in litt. 2012). Very rapid declines in the Tyumen region, Western Siberia, were reported in 2011 (J. Kamp in litt. 2012), suggesting a massive decline in an area of the core range during 2000-2011 (M. Flade in litt. 2007), and no Yellow-breasted Buntings were recorded during fieldwork in the region in 2012 (J.Kamp in litt. 2012). Severe declines have also recently been noted in Hokkaido, Japan, Mongolia (S. Chan in litt. 2003, O. Goroshko in litt. 2003, Tamada 2006, M. Gilbert in litt. 2007, A. Mischenko in litt. 2007, J. Kamp in litt. 2007), and Manchuria, South East China (S. Chan in litt. 2009). It no longer occurs as “swarms” at migration watch-points such as Beidaihe, China, and although a range-wide survey is required, numbers at wintering sites throughout its range have also shown rapid declines over the last twenty years (S. Chan in litt. 2003, M. Williams in litt. 2003, J. W. Duckworth in litt. 2003, N. Moores in litt. 2003, T. Evans in litt. 2007, M. Gilbert in litt. 2007, M. Williams in litt. 2007, S. Chan in litt. 2007). If evidence that the population size of this species has declined by ≥50% over three generations (11 years in this species) is confirmed, this species would warrant uplisting to Endangered under criteria A2acd+3cd+4acd of the IUCN Red List. Further information is required on the rates of decline and potential threats to this species, and quantitative data from systematic surveys within this species’s range is particularly welcome. References: Byers, C., Olsson, U. and Curson, J. (1995) Buntings and sparrows: a guide to the buntings and North American sparrows. Robertsbridge, U.K: Pica Press. Tamada, K. (2006) Population change of grassland birds over ten years in Nakashibetsu, eastern Hokkaido. Short Communication. Ornithological Science 5: 127–131.
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