Jankowski’s Bunting discovered breeding in Mongolia

This morning news broke of an exciting discovery in Mongolia.  During a feasibility study for the World Heritage nomination of the Eastern Mongolian Steppes, a joint team from the Mongolian Bird Conservation Center and the Eastern Mongolian Protected Area Administration discovered two breeding colonies of the globally endangered Jankowski’s Bunting (Emberiza jankowskii).

The discovery was revealed in a Facebook post by the Mongolian Bird Conservation Center and was accompanied by some images of the birds and the habitat, including a fantastic image of an adult Jankowski’s Bunting feeding a juvenile.

The text of the post is as follows:

“During the field survey of a feasibility study on World heritage nomination for Eastern Mongolian Steppes, a joint team of Mongolian Bird Conservation Center and Eastern Mongolian Protected Area Administration have discovered two sites of a breeding colony of Jankowski’s Bunting Emberiza jankowskii from southeastern Mongolia, 7 June 2020. The species believed to be vagrant in the country before. Both sites were mountain hills and dominated by Stipa grasses and shrubs. The first site locates within the Protected Area, where there is no human influence and no livestock grazing, and a second site found near the village where there both threats exist and no protection. A team collected data on habitat requirements and checked all valleys, especially for the first site. All the valleys were occupied by the breeding buntings and this site provides the best habitat for nesting buntings. We believe that there can be more potential breeding mountains in the east, especially east of the SPA, a team member said. More surveys needed to estimate the population distribution and determine the threats because there can be threats from livestock grazing in the areas where there is no protection. Therefore, a team is looking for collaborators to survey for this globally endangered bunting in the further. In addition, MBCC team is working on a publication of the bunting based on their findings at the moment.”

This is wonderful news and it’s reassuring to hear that one of the sites lies within a protected area.  

Jankowski’s Bunting (Emberiza jankowskii) is globally endangered after suffering a precipitous population decline in recent decades, thought to be due mainly to an increase in livestock and conversion of its traditional grassland habitat to agriculture.  For background about this species and recent developments, see here.

The discovery of breeding Jankowski’s Bunting in Mongolia is a shot in the arm, and some rare good news, for bird conservationists in East Asia.  And whilst more needs to be done to survey this newly discovered population and establish its status, the finding opens up the possibility of collaboration between Mongolia’s southeast Dornod Province and adjacent Inner Mongolia, which hosts the bulk of China’s remaining population.  

For now, big congratulations to the team and I look forward to hearing more in due course.

Here is a short video of Jankowsk’s Bunting on the breeding grounds in Inner Mongolia from 2016.

Cover image: a male Jankowski’s Bunting from Inner Mongolia, May 2013.

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