It breeds across northern Europe and Asia. It is migratory, wintering in south east Asia, Japan, and eastern China. It is a rare wanderer to western Europe.
It breeds in wet coniferous woodland. 4-6 eggs are laid in a nest in a bush or on the ground. Its natural food consists of insects when feeding young, and otherwise seeds.
This bird is similar in size to a Reed Bunting. It has white underparts with reddish flank, pink legs and a pink lower mandible. The summer male has a black head with a white throat and supercilium and a reddish breast band.
The female has a heavily streaked brown back and brown face with a whitish supercilium. She resembles a female Reed Bunting, but has the reddish flank streaks, a chestnut nape and a pink, not grey, lower mandible.
The call is a distinctive zit, and the song is a melancholic delee-deloo-delee.