Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis

Order

PASSERIFORMES

Family

Sparrows (Emberizidae)

Code 4

SNBU

Code 6

PLENIV

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Snow Bunting may also be known as the “snowflake”. It prefers Arctic climates, and breeding ranges span throughout the cold northern hemisphere. A few populations exist south of this region in high mountain ranges, such as the Cairngorms in Scotland and the Saint Elias Mountains on the Alaska-Yukon border. Breeding takes place on tundra, bare moors and mountains. This species migrates in winter months short distances to sandy coasts, prairies and low mountains. Nests are built in rocky crevices in the mountain ranges. The conservation rating for the Snow Bunting is currently Least Concern.

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BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Snow Bunting: Medium-sized, strikingly white sparrow with black back, central tail, and wing tips. Bill, legs and feet are black. Forages on ground for seeds, insects, larvae and caterpillars. Swift flight, alternates rapidly beating wings with brief periods of wings pulled to sides.


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.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"chi-chi-churee", "tew"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Snow Bunting is sometimes colloquially called "snowflake". Even on a warm day, the mostly white plumage of a bunting flock evokes the image of a snowstorm.
  • During the last ice age, it was widespread throughout continental Europe.
  • Unlike most passerines, it has feathered tarsi, an adaptation to its harsh environment. No other passerine can winter as far north as this species apart from the Common Raven.
  • A group of snow buntings are known collectively as a "drift" of buntings.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for Snow Bunting

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

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