An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings begin arriving in the northern half of the United States from their summer home on the northern tundra by the end of October, and remain here until March, when they begin migrating back to their breeding grounds. Although both males’ and females’ backs and heads are brownish, their bellies and a good portion of their wings are white, and when they take to the air, a flock of snow buntings bears a strong resemblance to a massive snow storm. By the time their breeding season arrives, the male has a totally white head and belly, and a jet black back.  This is not because of a second molt – snow buntings only molt their feathers once a year in the late summer – the change in appearance is due to the fact that underneath the colored feather tips, the back feathers are pure black and the body feathers all are white. The male wears off all of the feather tips by actively rubbing them on snow, which produces his black and white breeding plumage. (There is one male snow bunting in this photograph that is close to having breeding plumage — can you find it?)

 

3 responses

  1. ht

    Would it be the bunting in profile in the southwest quadrant, about 5th up from the corner? Seems to be minus the tan collar/necklace, what head is visible appears white and the back feathers appear slightly more black?

    March 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

  2. ht

    Mary. I forgot to say, I love this photo!

    March 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

  3. Susan in NH

    Maybe third one down on the left? Love this photo. I’ve never seen a s now bunting, fascinating!

    March 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm

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