Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis




Longspurs and Snow Buntings (Calcariidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White to blue green with brown and black marks

Number of Eggs:

4 - 7

Incubation Days:

10 - 16

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

Under grassy tussock or in crevice of rock or cliff.

Nest Material:

Grass and moss with lining of hair, feathers, and soft grasses.





Snow Bunting: Medium-sized, strikingly white sparrow with black back, central tail, and wing tips. Female is duller, has a red-brown rump, and shows red-brown and gray streaking on head and back. Winter adult and juvenile are duller with brown wash on back, sides, and head.

Range and Habitat

Snow Bunting: Breeds from Aleutians, northern Alaska and Arctic islands south to northern Quebec. Spends winters regularly across southern Canada and upper tier of states to Oregon and Pennsylvania; also found in Eurasia. Nests on high mountain tops. During the winter stays on sandy coasts, salt marsh, and rough coastal fields.

Breeding and Nesting

Snow Bunting: Four to seven white to blue green eggs with brown and black markings are laid in a nest made of grass and moss, lined with fine grass and feathers, and built under a grassy tussock, in a rocky crevice, on a building, empty oil barrel, or other artificial structure. Incubation ranges from 10 to 16 days and is carried out by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Snow Bunting: Eats seeds and insects in summer. During winter, gleans ground and snow for seeds.


Snow Bunting: Song is a musical, high-pitched "chi-chi-churee." Call is a whistled "tew."

Similar Species

Snow Bunting: McKay's Bunting has a white back and a mostly white tail.

The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X