Socotra bunting -- 索岛鹀 (Emberiza socotrana)

Socotra bunting
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Socotra bunting fact file

Socotra bunting description

GenusEmberiza (1)

With its boldly striped black and white head, the Socotra bunting has an unmistakable appearance. The plumage on the body is orangey-brown on top, white with a reddish wash below, and when in flight, a white band across the lower back can be seen (2). The short conical bill, longish tail and pointed wings are characteristic attributes of birds belonging to the Emberizidae family (3) (4). Female Socotra buntings can be distinguished from males by their somewhat duller plumage. This species emits a high, thin whistle, followed by a soft gurgle (2).

Bruant de Socotra.
Length: 13 cm (2)

Socotra bunting biology

While the Socotra bunting is sometimes seen perching in bushes and trees, it spends most of the time on the ground (2). Birds belonging to the Emberizidae family feed mainly on seeds (3). Their large feet are adept at scratching at the ground to locate food, and their small, conical bills efficiently peel away the seed coat (4).

Although the breeding biology of the Socotra bunting is not known, it is believed that this species requires specific habitat for nesting, thus restricting it to higher altitudes during the breeding season. It may breed in loose colonies, as clumps of males have been recorded singing together (2).


Socotra bunting range

The Socotra bunting occurs only on the island of Socotra, Yemen, where it is known from just a few localities (2). Located in the north-western Indian Ocean, Socotra Island covers an area of 3,625 square kilometres (5).


Socotra bunting habitat

During the breeding season, the Socotra bunting is found in the highland areas of the island, between elevations of 700 and 1,200 metres, where it inhabits rocky, grassy slopes and meadows with scattered trees and bushes. In the non-breeding season the bunting migrates down to the flat coastal plains at sea-level (2).


Socotra bunting status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Socotra bunting threats

This rare bunting is not thought to be facing any threats at present, but its small distribution and population makes it vulnerable to any future threats (2). Potential threats include increased livestock grazing in the highlands, which would degrade or destroy suitable breeding habitat for the Socotra bunting, and the accidental or intentional introduction of alien species. There are a number of invasive predators already well-established on Socotra Island, including the feral cat (Felis catus), brown rat (Rattus rattus) and small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), which may be limiting the population of the Socotra bunting (2). Recent infrastructure developments on the island, including a sea port, airport and roads, have brought positive changes to the local human inhabitants, but threaten the natural landscape and increase the possibility of the introduction of alien species (5) (6).


Socotra bunting conservation

The government of Yemen, together with numerous organisations, are working to preserve the biodiversity of the Socotra Archipelago. A Biodiversity Conservation Zoning Plan was developed in 2000, which integrates the human population’s development needs with environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources (5). This led to the Socotra Archipelago being designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2003, which recognises the island group as a site which innovates and demonstrates approaches to conservation and sustainable development (7). Such efforts to preserve the natural biodiversity of Socotra will no doubt benefit the island’s vulnerable bunting.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on conservation on Socotra see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2008)
  3. Allaby, M. (1992) Dictionary of Zoology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  5. Socotra Conservation and Development Programme (April, 2008)
  6. Thieme, M.L., Abell, R., Stiassny, M.L.J., Skelton, P., Lehner, B., Teugels, G.G., Dinerstein, E., Kamdem Toham, A., Burgess, N. and Olson, D. (2005) Freshwater Ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  7. UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (April, 2008)

Image credit

Socotra bunting  
Socotra bunting

© Jon Hornbuckle

Jon Hornbuckle


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