snow bunting

snow bunting by Georg Wietschorke (pixabay)

When winter storms sweep across the land these birds blow in like true snowflakes and settle down on wind-blown hillsides and benchlands to feed upon the weed stalks that rise above the snow. They are usually found in large flocks which start up from the ground, as one bird, at the slightest noise.
~ Chester A. Reed
(Carroll County Times, February 9, 2014)

I’ve never seen a snow bunting — yet. People in my area have been posting pictures of them on Facebook so I’m hoping my luck will change. (Last year I spotted quite a few birds I had never noticed before.) The nonbreeding female (above) is especially pretty. They are larger than sparrows but smaller than robins…

28 thoughts on “snow bunting”

  1. I am so happy to hear about all the kind of birds you have in the States. And a bit envious – in Norway, at least where I live – in the south/middle of it – there are mostly Magpies, crows, seagulls, and some playful sparrows thank God. I miss swallows terribly. So I am so enjoying your phots, Barbara. Learning so many new species

    1. We don’t have magpies here so on my trips to Norway and Ireland I was captivated by the ones I saw there. I was seeking them out because my sister lived in Sweden for a year (back in the 1990s) and she told stories about the ones living in her neighborhood in almost every letter she wrote to me. She appreciated their inquisitive personalities. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I never heard of a snow bunting until I saw a little painting of one, sitting in the snow, at an art show, maybe ten years ago. I asked the artist what kind of bird it was and then bought the painting. But I still haven’t seen one…

  2. I’ve tried to see this bird in Maryland over a few past winters and haven’t. This is one of the birds I would love to capture, they always look so soft in their coloring. Good luck, Barbara!!

    1. Thanks, Donna! You, too!! When people around here started reporting sightings I started to have some hope. I agree, their coloring is softly appealing. I bought a small painting of one years ago and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of art.

  3. I’ve heard of these but, to my knowledge, I’ve never seen one. Oh, I do hope you can find one and show it to us, Barbara. I don’t imagine they’re native to my area.

    1. I found this online: “The snow bunting is a common migrant and winter resident in Illinois decreasing southward in the state. It lives in fields, lake edges, roadsides and feedlots or pastures where manure is present or has been spread.” I suspect most of us don’t see them because we don’t get out as much in the winter.

  4. Some folks see them every year, yet I’ve only seen them once in recent years and that was in a big field north of here. A good size flock that rises and falls in sync, as your quote says, “as one bird, at the slightest noise.”

    1. Perhaps I need to get out of the woods and seek out fields if I ever hope to see one or a flock of them. Same thing about snowy owls, I’ve learned they can be found on or near the ground in wide-open areas, too. How lucky you were to see snow buntings!

    1. Thanks, Ally. I never knew about snow buntings until recently, either. Makes me wonder what other birds I haven’t heard of yet…

  5. I would so love to see a snow bunting, but I just cannot get myself to venture into the snowy, frigid climes where they live. So I thank you wholeheartedly for sharing this photo and delightful poem, Barbara. I hope you do get to see one.

    1. You’ve got many birds in your area that I doubt I will ever have a chance to see, so I love looking at the varieties (and animals, too!) you share on your lovely blog. You’ve taken me on some great wildlife adventures from the comfort of my living room. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’ve never seen one of these birds, but yes it sure does resemble a sparrow. I follow some bird sites in Michigan to see what birds are out there so I can identify more and I sure never see any of those beauties. I must be looking in all the wrong places I guess.

    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes I get pictures of a bird and only realize what it is I’ve seen after I get home and identify it. I don’t go by many fields so that could be one reason I haven’t seen snow buntings or snowy owls. Keep looking! You never know what might turn up!

        1. It was very unusual, but I was startled when a barred owl once came to the trees behind our balcony in broad daylight. Then my sister told me it was probably hunting my songbirds… (One reason I don’t have a birdfeeder any more.)

          1. I know it is a disappointment when you can’t feed and enjoy the birds outside your window.
            For years I fed the birds and never had issues with any raptors attacking them, same with feeding the squirrels. I stopped feeding the Cardinals and Jays last April after I lost all six of the squirrels I fed here at the house. They were hunted by a Cooper’s Hawk so end of feeding them for good. Breaks my heart. A barred owl is big and sad he’d go after your birds. I saw a Chickadee pulling berries of my barberry bush which a first for me to see a Chickadee in the yard, let along at that bush. I took out a small cup of black sunflower seeds since it was so brutally cold this morning, but I didn’t see my feathered friend – just as well, as I don’t want to make it a target, but I felt sorry for it in this brutal weather. I said I never saw a snow bunting and thought we didn’t have them, then the Facebook site of the Detroit River International Refuge (where I went three times last Fall but have not written about yet) posted this photo taken by this photographer … I hope I am lucky enough to see this sight when I go back when the weather is better.
            https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10215556741586450&set=a.1070016565451

          2. I remember your sad story about hawk and the squirrels… You’re lucky to have a chickadee eating your berries! They still stop by looking for my suet feeder. They used to glean the seeds that fell out of it when the woodpeckers were eating. The woodpeckers still check to see if the feeder is there, too. They remember. I’m happy to see them but sad to disappoint them. That being said, I have seen the chickadees looking for bugs in the bark of my birch tree out front. That’s an amazing picture of the snow buntings in flight! I’ve never seen pictures of them in flight before. Thanks for sharing the link!

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