McKay's Bunting

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Scientific Information

Male McKay's Bunting in breeding plumage just before migrating to its nesting grounds on either St. Matthew's or Hall Islands in the Bering Sea
Male McKay's Bunting in non-breeding plumage.
The McKay's Bunting (Plectrophenax hyperboreus) is one of the rarest songbirds in all of North America. They nest exclusively on Hall and St. Matthew's Islands in the Bering Sea and winter along the western coast of Alaska. They will often be found with their closest relative the Snow Bunting. They sometimes are known to hybridize.

McKay's Buntings will usually arrive around Norton Sound and the Seward Peninsula early to mid October and will often be seen with the closely related Snow Bunting. They will leave for their Bering Sea islands around mid-April.

Community Information




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The McKay's Buntings come to Shishmaref each October. During the 2007-08 winter, there were approximately 100 birds of this species as well as many Snow Buntings. Locally they are not distinguished between Snow Buntings and both are called Snow Birds or God's Birds. Their local name literally translated means Winter Bird, which is very fitting.

Local resident Albert "Yabo" Olanna feeds them each winter on the roof of his shed behind his home. These birds are very intelligent and recognize those that fed them.



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