© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Mirjam Silven, Kari Pihlaviita, M., W. & F. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland), Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis

  • Family: Calcariidae
  • Appearance: A largish, stocky bunting. Males black and white in colouring, females brown and white. Striking white patches on wings, rump and tail edges prominent in flight. Beak dark and cone-shaped.
  • Size: Length 17–19 cm, weight 29–40 g.
  • Nest: In a cleft or hollow among rocks, made of moss, lichen and peat, lined with dry grass and a few feathers.
  • Breeding: 4–7 eggs laid in June, incubated by female for 13 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 10–11 days, and learn to fly within about 12–14 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds on the open fells of Northern Lapland. On spring migration in late March and early April may be seen in farmland in Southern Finland in large, restless flocks, even numbering thousands of birds. Finnish breeding population estimated at 3,000–15,000 pairs. Numbers have declined.
  • Migration: Mainly by day. Autumn migration October-November, returning in March–April. Winters in Southern Russia, also possibly around the North Sea. Small numbers of birds may remain in Finland for the winter.
  • Diet: Seeds.
  • Calls: A jingling “kililili”; brief song clear and melodious.
  • Endangerment: Vulnerable, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

In all plumages Snow Buntings can be recognised by the broad white patches on the inner part of their wings, and their white underparts. Males in summer plumage are largely pure white, with black colouring only on their backs, wingtips and white-edged tails. Females have grey colouring on their heads, brownish backs, and smaller white patches on their wings. In their winter plumage, Snow Buntings have a rusty brown tinge on their heads and flanks. Their legs are black. Their beaks are black in summer and brownish yellow with a black tip in winter. They have brown irises.

Other species from the same family

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