LAPLAND BUNTING (Calcarius lapponicus)

FAMILY: CALCARIIDAE (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)

The Lapland longspur, commonly known as the Lapland bunting, is a winter visitor to our saltmarshes and coastal fields where its rolling call is often the first sign of its presence. They begin arriving in late August from their arctic breeding grounds, choosing to spend the winters on our East and Northeast coasts. The number of migrants fluctuates annually, which makes population estimates difficult, but a few hundred individuals usually arrive here.

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Alert Status:


Estimated number of winter visitors: 310

Listen to Lapland Bunting song:


Lapland Buntings look similar to other UK buntings, they have chestnut brown backs and wings with some black and white speckling. Their white bellies are contrasted sharply by their black throat, bib, face, and head. The back of their heads and napes are a reddish brown colour, outlined by a white band and visible white eyebrow stripe (or supercilium). They are usually seen feeding on the ground in small flocks.

Average Length: 15-16 cm

Average Lifespan: 2-3 years

Average Wingspan: 25-28 cm

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Lapland Bunting diet

While wintering in the UK, Lapland Buntings eat primarily seeds and grain. In the summer they will switch their diet to invertebrates which helps give them the nutrients they need to breed.

Lapland Bunting Breeding and nesting information

Lapland Buntings don’t breed on our shores, instead returning to their breeding grounds in Greenland and Scandinavia.  The breeding season begins in May and June. The female builds a cup-shaped nest concealed in dense vegetation on the ground, in which 4-6 eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated alone by the female for 12-13 days before they hatch. The chicks are then fed by both parents for a further 8-10 days before they leave the nest but they will still need parental care until they can fly. They are known to split the brood equally and the male and female will each look after half the brood until they can fly.

Threats to Lapland buntings

The threats to Lapland bunting in the UK are not well known, but they have undergone decline in other regions. The use of farmland by these birds, especially in the breeding season, makes them susceptible to ingestion of pesticides and loss of insect prey caused by pesticides. This bird breeds in arctic areas and therefore, climate change may drastically change these habitats and drive population declines in the breeding areas. Furthermore, overgrazing in their breeding zones has driven declines in suitable nesting sites and therefore reducing breeding success.

How you can help

Petition the government to take immediate action against climate change.  

Support local reserves where this bird is present during the winter.

If you see a Lapland bunting breeding, do not report it publicly and read the guidance on the rare breeding birds panel website for how best to make a report.

Fascinating Fact

Although Lapland buntings breed in areas where there is almost constant daylight, breeding males still sign most early in the morning despite no clear dawn!
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Calcarius lapponicus. Downloaded from Accessed: 01/11/2023.

British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Lapland bunting, BTO. Available at: Accessed:01/11/2023.  

Golovatin, M. G., Morozova, L. M., & Ektova, S. N. (2012). Effect of reindeer overgrazing on vegetation and animals of tundra ecosystems of the Yamal peninsula. Czech Polar Reports, 2(2), 90-91.  

RSPB (2023) Lapland bunting, RSPB. Available at: Accessed: 01/11/2023.  

Svensson, S., & Andersson, T. (2013). Population trends of birds in alpine habitats at Ammarnäs in southern Swedish Lapland 1972–2011. Ornis Svecica, 23(2), 81–107.

Virkkala, R., Heikkinen, R. K., Leikola, N., & Luoto, M. (2008). Projected large-scale range reductions of northern-boreal land bird species due to climate change. Biological Conservation, 141(5), 1343–1353.  

Woodward,I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D.A.& Noble, D. (2020). Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and theUnited Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

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