Snow Bunting

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Scientific Information

Male Snow Bunting in non-breeding plumage
The Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is very common to Alaska and breeds from the Aleutians, northern Alaska, and arctic islands to Northern Quebec.

They spend their winters across southern Canada and upper tier states from Oregon to Pennsylvania. They are found to nest on higher mountain tops. They often stay near sandy coasts, salt marshes, and rough coastal fields.

When they fly, one can see the white that gives them their name along with their dark back, central tail, and wing tips. They can be differentiated from McKay’s Buntings that do not have dark backs and have a minimal triangle of black on their tail.

Unlike many other birds that turn white in the Winter for camouflage; they actually become darker, making them very visible in the contrasting snow.

Community Information

Shishmaref

Name

Ugiuqtaaqhiq

Spoken Name

Relevant Site Information

At least one pair of Snow Buntings nest on the island and many others can be found nesting on the tundra around the local area. Many Snow Buntings can be found on the island during the winter with McKay's Buntings. Together locals call these "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. They seem to be a little more worried about being in the presence of people, making them easy targets for photographs. The buntings are very active birds in the spring and are very beautiful as the begin to molt into their breeding plumage.

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