Archived 2015 topics: Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea) – uplist from Near Threatened to Vulnerable?

Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea breeds in SW Iran, S Turkey and adjacent E Greek islands, and winters in Sudan, Eritrea and S Arabia (Madge 2011). It is currently listed as Near Threatened, because when last assessed its moderately small population was suspected to be declining as a result of the conversion and degradation of its habitats.

Globally, it has a relatively large range in both the breeding season (>80,000 km2) and in winter (>230,000 km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is poorly known, but there are an estimated 6,400–11,400 mature individuals in Europe (BirdLife International 2015), and possibly fewer than 100 pairs in Iran. In combination with the reported decline of 1–19% in Turkey during 1990–2000 (BirdLife International 2004), the species was considered to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the small, declining population size criterion (C1).

New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) indicate that the species is still declining in Turkey (which holds >90% of the global range and population), and that the European breeding population has probably declined overall by more than 10% over the last three generations (10.8 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 3.6 years). Consequently, the species is now classified as Vulnerable at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

No recent information is available about the species’ population status or trends elsewhere in its global range, but its continued decline in its Turkish stronghold implies that the threats identified in the species action plan (Albayrak et al. 2003) have not yet been adequately addressed. As the lower end and the mid-point of the global population estimate are well below 10,000 mature individuals, and the species is still estimated to be declining by more than 10% over three generations, this poorly known species probably qualifies for uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A.

Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding the recent trend of its breeding population in Iran, and of its wintering population in S Arabia and NE Africa, along with any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.


Albayrak, T., Gursoy, A. and Kirwan, G.M. (2003) International Action Plan for the Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea).

BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (Conservation Series No. 12).

BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Madge, S. (2011). Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

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4 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea) – uplist from Near Threatened to Vulnerable?

  1. Sureyya Isfendiyaroglu says:

    The western subspecies’ habitat is being lost each and everyday. Wind powerplants are widely being constructed at the breeding habitat of these species, especially in Karaburun peninsula and Alaçatı regions, where the population stronghold thrives. Mountains in Aegean region are not too high. There are small isolated pockets of suitable habitat and these areas are often close to the ridges and hill tops, where are also suitable for placing wind turbines. Ornithology reports mostly focus on birds of prey and breeding populations of cinereous buntings are mostly neglected. There’s increasing number of wind powerplants and yet so few knowledge about the current situation of the species. Marble querries and mines are also very common problem both in the east and west. There are practically no obstacles to stop these activities and The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation is insufficient to protect any endangered species.

  2. Richard Porter says:

    Nature Iraq has just completed an inventory of the Key Biodiversity Areas in Iraq. This was undertaken through summer and winter surveys from 2005 to 2012. In Iraqi Kurdistan, where Cinereous Bunting is a fairly common breeding summer visitor, 53 potential KBAs were surveyed, mainly by teams with Korsh Ararat as leader.

    23 (of the 53 sites) had breeding Cinereous Buntings. At 9 sites Korsh Ararat made population assessments and these totalled c190 pairs (in an area of very approx.90,000ha). The highest populations were in two mountain sites, each of which held over 60 pairs.

    At none of the sites were there any serious threats to the habitat that would affect breeding Cinereous Buntings.

    During my four spring and summer visits to Iraqi Kurdistan with Nature Iraq (2009-2012) Cinereous Buntings were easy to find in any hilly or mountain area with shrubs and especially small oaks. The crude counts that I made alongside those of Ararat et al easily suggest a minimum Iraqi Kurdistan population of 1,000 pairs. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a full survey produced well in excess of this notional figure. 5,000 pairs would not surprise me. This is a very important area for this species, which does not seem to be under any threat.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to continue to treat:

    Cinereous Bunting as Near Threatened under criterion C1.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 August, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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