The Kennedy Wild Bird Food Guide to the Reed Bunting

Common to many of the UK’s wetland areas (as well as farmland regions), the reed bunting is one of our nation’s most intriguing bird species. With its distinctive moustache (male birds only) and smart defence mechanisms, the reed bunting may just become one of your favourite UK birds. Here’s why.

What does the reed bunting look like?

A streaky brown bird, the common reed bunting male differs in appearance from the female – males have black heads, black throats, with white collars and a distinctive white moustache. In contrast, female reed buntings are lighter in colour and do not have the bold black cap that males have.

reed bunting bird guide

In further contrast, female reed buntings have darker undersides whereas males display a much brighter underside. One of the few similarities in appearance for the bunting family is that both genders have brown and black streaked backs with the long tails.

What do reed buntings eat?

The reed bunting’s diet is somewhat limited and relies on their breeding patterns. Throughout their breeding season (and large parts of the summer) they mostly eat insectivorous foods (insects and larvae, snails and lots of other invertebrates). In the later parts of summer and through autumn and winter, they eat exclusively wild seeds.

Your local reed buntings will love our suet for birds range – our nutritionally rich mixes are perfect for supporting your area’s bird population.

What does the reed bunting sound like?

The reed bunting call is a short, three-note call – very distinctive. Click the link below to see if you recognise the call!

The reed bunting’s nesting habits

Given the name, the reed bunting prefers to nest in reed beds and wet marshland areas. They’re not afraid of getting grubby! That said, they’ve also been known to nest in dry and grassy areas, including sand dunes too.

All year round, they stay in the UK – apart from some northern regions of Scotland where reed buntings just visit for the summer.

Selfless defence mechanism

The reed bunting is an expert in duping predators (at the potential cost of their life). Because their nests are so low, among the vegetation, reed buntings are open prey for many of its predators. What happens is that, if a predator comes near a reed bunting’s nest, an adult reed bunting may feign injury near their nest – this draws the predator away from the precious nest. Very brave! With any luck, reed buntings can usually escape the clutches of its predator.

Have you seen a reed bunting in your area?

If you live nearby wet marshland areas, then you’ll have likely spotted a few in their natural habitat. They’re bold, quick, and not too shy. They love rural areas so, if you live in a more built up urban space then you probably won’t spot one.

However, if you do, make sure you log it on our Birdspotter map so other bird watchers know where they can spot one!