© Donna Dewhurst, USFWS

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting
Plectrophenax nivalis
Perching Birds | Family: New World Sparrows, Emberizidae

An estimated 22% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.



This circumpolar bird, often called the "Snowflake," breeds further north than almost any other land bird. In severe winters large flocks descend to our northern states, where they favor the most barren places. They occasionally can be found at beach parking lots in the dead of winter searching for weed seeds.


6-7 1/4" (15-18 cm). Sparrow-sized. Breeding male has black back with much white on head, underparts, wings, and tail. Female similar, but duller. Winter birds have brown on crown and upperparts, have duller underparts, but still show much white in wings.


Clear whistle or soft buzzy note. Song a sweet warble.


4-6 white eggs, with red-brown spots in ring around the larger end, placed in a cup of grass lined with fur and feathers and concealed among rocks or in tundra vegetation.


Arctic tundra. Winters on windswept grasslands and beaches.


Breeds from Aleutians, northern Alaska and Arctic islands south to northern Quebec. Winters regularly across southern Canada and upper tier of states to Oregon and Pennsylvania. Also in Eurasia.