Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

name = Snow Bunting
status = LC
status_system = iucn3.1

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Male in breeding plumage, Alaska
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Passeriformes
familia = Emberizidae
genus = "Plectrophenax"
species = "P. nivalis"
binomial = "Plectrophenax nivalis"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)
synonyms ="Passerina nivalis"

The Snow Bunting ("Plectrophenax nivalis"), sometimes colloquially called "snowflake", is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae. It is an arctic specialist, with a circumpolar Arctic breeding range throughout the northern hemisphere. There are small isolated populations on a few high mountain tops south of the Arctic region, including the Cairngorms in central Scotland and the Saint Elias Mountains on the southern Alaska-Yukon border.Byers, C., Olsson, U., & Curson, J. (1995). "Buntings and Sparrows". Pica Press ISBN 1-873403-19-4.]

The breeding habitat is on tundra, treeless moors, and bare mountains. It is migratory, wintering a short distance further south in open habitats in northern temperate areas, typically on either sandy coasts, steppes, prairies, or low mountains, more rarely on farmland stubble. In winter, it forms mobile flocks.

It is fairly large and long-winged for a bunting, 15-18 cm long and with a wingspan of 32–38 cm, and weighing 26–50 g. In flight, it is easily identified by its large white wing patches. The breeding male is unmistakable, with all white plumage and a black back; the breeding female is grey-black where the male is solid black. In winter plumage, both sexes are mottled pale ginger, blackish and white above, and pale ginger and white below, with the males having more white than the females. The bill is yellow with a black tip, all black in summer males. 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.Snow, D. W. & Perrins, C. M. (1998). "The Birds of the Western Palearctic" Concise Edition. OUP ISBN 0-19-854099-X.]

The call is a distinctive rippling whistle, "per,r,r,rit" and the typical "Plectrophenax" warble "hudidi feet feet feew hudidi".

It builds its bulky nest in rock crevices. The eggs are blue-green, spotted brown, and hatch in 12–13 days, and the young are already ready to fly after a further 12–14 days.

There are four subspecies, which differ slightly in the plumage pattern of breeding males:
*"Plectrophenax nivalis nivalis". Arctic Europe, Arctic North America. Head white, rump mostly black with a small area of white.
*"Plectrophenax nivalis insulae". Iceland, Faroe Islands, Scotland. Head white with a blackish collar, rump black.
*"Plectrophenax nivalis vlasowae". Arctic Asia. Head white, rump mostly white.
*"Plectrophenax nivalis townsendi". Aleutian Islands, Kamchatka, coastal far eastern Siberia. As "vlasowae", but slightly larger.

It is very closely related to the Beringian McKay's Bunting, which differs in having even more white in the plumage. Hybrids between the two occur in Alaska,Sibley, D. (2000). "The Sibley Guide to Birds". National Audubon Society ISBN 0-679-45122-6] and they have been considered conspecific by some authors,Voous, K. (1977). List of Recent Holarctic Bird Species, part III. "Ibis" 119: 376-406.] though are generally treated separate species.American Ornithologists' Union: "Checklist of North American Birds".]

The species is not endangered at present, with good populations. [IUCN2006|assessors=BirdLife International|year=2004|id=53543|title=Plectrophenax nivalis|downloaded=12 May 2006 Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern] It shows little fear of humans, and often nests around buildings in Arctic areas, readily feeding on grain or other scraps put out for it.

During the last ice age, the Snow Bunting was widespread throughout continental Europe. [Tomek, T., & Bocheński, Z. (2005). Weichselian and Holocene bird remains from Komarowa Cave, Central Poland. "Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia" 48A (1-2): 43-65. [ PDF fulltext] ]


External links

* [ Snow Bunting Species Account] - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
* [ Snow Bunting "Plectrophenax nivalis"] - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
* [ Stamps] (with world range map)
* [ Snow Bunting videos] on the Internet Bird Collection
* [ ARKive] Images

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Snow bunting — Snow Snow, n. [OE. snow, snaw, AS. sn[=a]w; akin to D. sneeuw, OS. & OHG. sn[=e]o, G. schnee, Icel. sn[ae]r, snj[=o]r, snaj[=a]r, Sw. sn[ o], Dan. snee, Goth. snaiws, Lith. sn[ e]gas, Russ. snieg , Ir. & Gael. sneachd, W. nyf, L. nix, nivis, Gr.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • snow bunting — n. a small bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) inhabiting cold regions in the Northern Hemisphere: the male is white in summer with black streaks on the back …   English World dictionary

  • snow bunting — Snowbird Snow bird, n. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) An arctic finch ({Plectrophenax nivalis} syn. {Plectrophanes nivalis}) common, in winter, both in Europe and the United States, and often appearing in large flocks during snowstorms. It is partially white,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Snow Bunting — sniegstartė statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Plectrophenax nivalis angl. Snow Bunting vok. Schneeammer …   Paukščių anatomijos terminai

  • snow bunting — paprastoji sniegstartė statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Plectrophenax nivalis angl. snow bunting vok. Schneeammer, f rus. пуночка, f pranc. bruant des neiges, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – sniegstartės sinonimas –… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • snow bunting — snow′ bunt ing n. orn a bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, of the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, having white plumage …   From formal English to slang

  • snow bunting — noun white Arctic bunting • Syn: ↑snowbird, ↑snowflake, ↑Plectrophenax nivalis • Hypernyms: ↑bunting • Member Holonyms: ↑Plectrophenax, ↑genus Plectrophenax …   Useful english dictionary

  • snow bunting — noun Date: 1771 a white bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) with black or brown markings on the upperparts that breeds in arctic regions and winters in northern parts of North America and Eurasia …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • snow bunting — a bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, of the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere having white plumage. Also called snowbird, snowflake. [1765 75] * * * …   Universalium

  • snow bunting — noun a northern bunting that breeds mainly in the Arctic, the male having white plumage with a black back in the breeding season. [Plectrophenax nivalis.] …   English new terms dictionary

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