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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Black-headed or Red-headed Bunting? Singapore (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Hi all, this bunting was spotted in Singapore in Nov 2018 and there was a bit of debate on the identification of this bird - there were supporters for both Black-headed and Red-headed. I will confess that I have zero experience with both birds and am not confident in identifying it myself, was hoping to get some help in identifying this particular bird! Will appreciate any tips on the features to look out for as well.

Photos are from a friend.


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Well-known member
I don’t know if it’s possible to separate immatures in the field between these two species?


Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
The bird is an adult fem, readily aged by virtue of the extremely worn coverts, remiges and rectrices. According to Svensson, pre-nuptial moult is normally completed by early December but this may be disrupted in vagrants, as is the case here. The bird has replaced 2 of its outer median coverts (adult-type) on the left wing; they're the ones with the warmer tips which, will wear white with age. Identification is far from straightforward, indeed many individuals cannot be safely identified except e.g birds that show a ghosting of male head pattern and/or birds that show clear rufous tones to the mantle. Other features, include bill structure and pp both of which are rather subjective when dealing with images + there are a suite of non-diagnostic features such as strength of crown/mantle streaking and rump colour which may be supportive of one or other species.

Looking at this individual it's a particularly challenging individual, but based on combination of the rather evenly streaked forehead and crown, weak mantle streaking, the long, rather hefty bill and long pp (though the latter is rather difficult to quantify due to wear and relaxed wing) I would cautiously lean towards Black-headed i.e not with a strong conviction!

A similar discussion hereBunting - Shanghai, China

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
In addition to Grahame's learned comments I remember something about ghosting of male head pattern, and being a holistic rather than a feather by feather birder, I fancy I can see a Black-headed Bunting cap ghosted in some of the pictures. So I lean that way too. ;)



Well-known member
Thanks all for your inputs - especially Grahame for that detailed analysis, really appreciate it. Great discussions in the linked threads as well, will slowly try to figure it out, cheers
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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