Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snow Buntings are visiting now

About this time each year Snow Buntings arrive in our backyard for a short visit. They are interesting to watch as they land and fly around our backyard field. When flying they do look like a snow storm has struck especially when their numbers are great. In past years we have had upwards to a hundred in one flock but more recently we have been lucky to see thirty. The group this year started with just ten and has now grown to twenty-four. Now I can’t be sure whether it is the same flock and more being added as the days go by or if they are totally different groups as they start their journey back to their summer range to breed. According to All About Birds: Snow Bunting their summer and breeding area is from Alaska, across Northern Canada, to Greenland and Iceland as well as across northern Eurasia. The snow bunting spends its winters from Northern Canada southward to northern Nevada, Missouri and central Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The male Snow Buntings return to high Arctic tundra in early April with the females following six to eight weeks later. Nests are deep in cracks or other cavities in rocks lined with moss and grasses, rootlets, fur and feathers. The female must stay on the nest during most of the incubation time of the two to seven egg clutch. The male snow bunting will feed the female during this time.
During breeding season the male and female will have a much different look. The male will have white body feathers and jet black wings. The female will have more white plumage with a grayish head and indistinct dusky streaking than during the non-breeding season. The link above at About Birds shows non-breeding and breeding plumage of both sexes.
These song birds are difficult to photograph as they are constantly moving. I have posted a couple of the better photos I have been able to capture. I enjoy seeing these beautiful birds each year and will keep trying for a truly good photograph.
According to
the National Audubon Society, the Snow Bunting is #11 in their list of common birds in decline. How sad! Global warming has allowed more predators (mammals and birds) to survive and prey on the Snow Bunting nests.

FACT: Snow Buntings feed on weed and grass seeds, insects.

Take a moment to see what birds are visiting you today and enjoy! :) Coppertop

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