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Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

The most northerly songbird, an Arctic delight

Information about Snow Bunting

Our Expert Says… "The males are stunning-looking birds. Unlike many migrants, they molt while still at their breeding grounds and not when further south. This is probably because there are still plenty of insects so they can fatten up here a little longer than other species with a different food source."

The snow bunting is an Arctic specialist songbird, with the most northerly distribution of all of the songbirds (or passerines).

Large for a bunting, the snow bunting grows to around 15cm (6”) long and has a wingspan of about 38cm (15”). It’s a ground dweller and tends to be seen walking or running through its habitat. It feeds on seeds, foliage, and small insects and invertebrates.

Snow bunting males have a breeding plumage that is mainly white, with black wingtips and black back. Winter plumage is similar for males and females, being reddish-brown on the back. Interestingly, unlike other songbirds, they don’t molt. In order to withstand the cold temperatures of the arctic, snow buntings change plumage as their old feathers abrade and wear down and are replaced with feathers of the appropriate color rather than a wholesale molt.

Because the temperature in high latitudes can be highly variable, even in summer, the female snow bunting does not leave the nest once she has laid her 3 or 4 eggs. This allows her to maintain a regulated incubation temperature. During this time, the male snow bunting will hunt for both of them, bringing food for the female back to the nest.

The snow bunting is found in high arctic latitudes during the summer (usually arriving in April and leaving September), and it then migrates south to more temperate zones for winter, including Southern Canada, northern United States, northern Europe, and central Asia.

Pictures of Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Highlights where the Snow Bunting can be seen

Our trips to spot the Snow Bunting

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