If you happen to be anywhere around the Arctic regions during winters, you will definitely be fascinated by the songs or calls of these beautiful birds known as Snow buntings. These birds, the most northerly passerine in the world, are built to adapt themselves to extreme sub-zero temperatures. With gray- and brown-streaked backs, they crouch down and blend in extremely well with the ground, so you need to look closely for movement to find one. You can also find snow bunting flying together with Horned larks and Longspurs foraging together in winter. When they migrate to their Arctic breeding grounds during summer, they rub their drab plumage on the snow, wearing off feather tips to reveal their white, which helps them camouflage to the icy surroundings. The feathered tarsi is an adaptation to its harsh environment.
They are lovely songbirds and love to sing at length when in flight or sitting and resting on a perch. They are hence also known as perching birds. Mainly black and white birds with rufous wings, these North American birds are believed to bring good luck with them as they arrive in winters.
Grass, seeds of flowering plants, insects, spiders, anthropods
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
How long are they?
6-7.5 in (17–19 cm)
How tall are they?
13–15 in (32–38 cm)
What do they look like?
Black and white, yellow bill with black tip
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
North America, Europe, Russia
Snow Bunting Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a snow bunting?
A Snow bunting is a bird. It is a passerine bird. Also known as the perching birds or songbirds. A Snow bunting is a ground-dwelling bird and migrates to the south region of the Arctic during harsh winters.
What class of animal does a snow bunting belong to?
A Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) belongs to the Aves class in the family Calcariidae. Longspur birds belong to the same family. There are four subspecies and can be identified by the plumage of the breeding male.
How many snow buntings are there in the world?
The exact count on the number of Snow buntings available with the Partners in Flight is 29 million, but the numbers are not accurate since they live in widespread breeding grounds in North American and surrounding regions. So there is no worry about their status of conservation.
Where does a snow bunting live?
Snow bunting lives in high latitudes in Arctic Tundra. They are migratory species and are primarily found in the northern range of North America. However, a few isolated groups are also found in the southern Arctic region, central Scotland and the southern Alaska-Yukon border, and the Cape Breton Highlands.
What is a snow bunting’s habitat?
The Snow bunting bird is the most northerly recorded passerine species in the world. In winter, they spend their day in open fields, roadsides, coastal areas, croplands. But they migrate in the summer season, and warm days are spent in the Arctic tundra not covered by ice, nesting in the rocky areas in North America. The snow bunting habitat habits and adaptations are dependent on seasons.
Who do snow buntings live with?
Snow buntings flock together while foraging and migrating. But are very protective when it comes to their nesting sites during the breeding season. The Snow bunting range is shared by Pipits, Horned Larks, and Lapland longspurs in other seasons.
How long does a snow bunting live?
A Snow bunting lives for about nine years in the wild.
How do they reproduce?
The Snow bunting reproduces by sexual reproduction, and females lay eggs. The males arrive early to the prospective nesting sights, and the females arrive later. The males attract females with songs and breeding plumage. And once they pair together, the female Snow bunting builds the nest with feathers and grass in the nest sites. A female lays a brood of four to six blue-green spotted brown eggs, and the female is nest bound and does not leave the nest eggs through the hatching process. The male Snow buntings feed the females during this time. Both parents take care of their infant snow bunting and feed the little ones exclusively with anthropods and insects. The young leave the nest after around two weeks from hatching.
Breeding males have a black back and a sharp white body. Breeding females have a whitish body and a dusky head with a brown, streaky back.
What is their conservation status?
According to the IUCN Red List, the conservation list of the Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is Least Concern. These North American birds are found in abundance.
Snow Bunting Fun Facts
What do snow buntings look like?
A Snow bunting is white in the underparts and wings. The back is black and white—their plumage changes with breeding and non-breeding seasons. The change in the plumage during the breeding season, especially in males, doesn’t happen by the growth of new feathers but by revealing the immaculate white feathers below by rubbing their bellies and heads on the snow. Then the male birds show a snow-white body contrasting with black back, wingtips, and central tail feathers. The conical bills turn black from orange-yellow color.
How cute are they?
When this medium-sized little bird hops around or flocks together in circles, it is a delightful sight. The Snow bunting face is cute with a small conical bill, and their eyes are beautiful black. Despite the differences seen during the breeding season, both male and female snow buntings look alike in winter.
How do they communicate?
Snow buntings have different vocalizations for their communication. The snow bunting call is a characteristic rippling whistle and the typical Plectrophenax warble. Males and females while foraging on the ground or in flight, give several sounds like a clear chew, a sort of husky rolling rattle, a short buzz, or a sharp chi-tik. The breeding male Snow bunting song is exclusive to individuals for the snow bunting female. It sings from a perching position or in a flight display during the breeding season to attract a mate.
How big is a snow bunting?
An adult Snow bunting weighs 0.9-1.4 oz with a wingspan of 11.8 in. The species is between 3-6 in tall with a small conical bill. Snow bunting is relatively a larger bird than a sparrow and smaller than a robin. The wings of this bird are larger than that of any other buntings for their body size.
How fast can a snow bunting fly?
Snow bunting can fly up to a speed of 45 kmph. They are perching birds and hop and walk around while foraging. It may sometimes jump if needed. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see a flock of Snow buntings that seem like snowflakes flying in the air and settle on winter fields? This is exactly why they are also called Snowflakes. Individual birds fly steeply up and glide back to the ground. It is worth a sight to see a Snow bunting in flight.
How much does a snow bunting weigh?
An adult snow bunting weighs between 0.9-1.4 oz. The birds are sexually dimorphic, and males and females have different plumage, and females are smaller than males. The bird is pretty large for a bunting.
What are their male and female names of the species?
Both the male and female species go with the species name, and no special names are there based on their gender. But a group of the buntings is called a decoration mural.
What would you call a baby snow bunting?
The Snow bunting baby doesn’t have any particular name. Young birds are called chicks. Depending on their stage of development, young birds are called hatchlings, fledglings, or nestlings. The young ones hatched at the same time by the same parents are together called a brood.
What do they eat?
The Snow bunting winter is spent eating various weeds such as goosefoot, knotweed, amaranth, and goldenrod, and various types of grass seeds in the fields. During summers in the high Arctic tundra, the Snow bunting diet includes seeds of goosefoot, crowberry, dock, bistort, poppy, purple saxifrage, and also feed on insects such as butterflies, true bugs, flies, wasps, and spiders. Their diet varies with their seasonal habitat.
Are they aggressive?
Snow buntings are social birds and flock together very well. But the males are protective about their nesting sites during the breeding season.
Would they make a good pet?
Snow buntings are found in abundance in the Arctic regions and hence are not taken in as pets. The local Inuit people build nest boxes for them, but before construction and wood were available, people heaped stones together and fashioned special cavities to attract nesting birds. The nest boxes are carefully maintained and cleaned regularly, and, as a result, the birds reuse them year after year. Snow buntings scratch to uncover hidden seeds on the ground. Providing a ground feeding area with sprinkled seeds will help attract these lovely winter birds.
Did you know...
Local Inuit people of the Arctic region believe that the Snow bunting birds have spiritual significance and bring good fortune for those who build nests for them.
Snow buntings prey on basking spiders by throwing rocks around and will not try to catch invertebrates in flight.
The names of Snow bunting predators are snowy owls, falcons, Arctic foxes, and Skuas.
Snow buntings are nocturnal migrants.
Crocus snow bunting is a chrysanthemum flower.
How do male snow buntings attract a mate?
Male snow buntings make a call to attract female snow buntings. Each male has a distinguished warbled song, and it sings perched or in circular flights. The breeding males fly steeply up and glide back to the ground with their wings in V-shape, indicating the nest sites to a prospective female partner in the high Arctic rocky regions. The rate of a song is measured by the number of strophes per minute. A male bird shows that he is more successful and effective in his foraging, and the song becomes an indicator of his parental care qualities. Thus, the females will choose their mates based on their song rate. Every individual bird will have a unique pattern of its song. The uniqueness of each song reveals a capacity for recognition and fitness and reproductive success.
Where does the snow bunting get its name?
Snow buntings get their name because of their snowy plumage. The scientific name Plectrophenax nivalis is derived from Greek. Plectrophenax refers to the long straight hind claw, and Nivalis is a Latin word for snowy.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including American wigeon, or bohemian waxwing.
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