Thursday, 3 February 2011

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

OTHER NAMES: Snowflake
Latin Etymology: Plectrophenax ("bunting imposter") nivalis ("snow-white")
Two Winter plumage Snow Bunting  - female left, male right, (subspecies P. n insulaeat Herne Bay, Kent - February 2011

Featured Subspecies: Plectrophenax nivalis insulae
Weight: 30-46g  /  Length: 15-18cm  /  Wingspan: 30cm
UK AMBER LIST  IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Snow Buntings are for most people a Winter visitor, as although there is a small breeding population in the Highlands, it's a bit out the way for most people. Most common along the East Coast in Winter, I personally found my flock actually in a town (Herne Bay) with a flock of about 12 actually flitting along the beach by the pier. Later, I found another individual further along the coast on its own, neither in the exact place they had been seen before. As such, I'd suggest that if you do go looking for them following a report, look around the entire coastal area as they do move - look out for flocks of small sparrow like birds flying along the beach.  Two subspecies occur in the UK - the Icelandic subspecies insulae and the Scandinavian one nivalis.

Related Species:
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Plectrophenax
Subspecies: P. n. nivalis, P. n. insulae, P. n. vlasowae, P. n. townsendi 

- Sighting Locations -
UNITED KINGDOM - A breeding species found only in the Cairngorms (60 pairs) and Coastal Winter Visitor (10-15,000 birds)
 - A flock in Herne Bay and a single bird at Reculver on the same day in February 2011

Further Notes: BirdForum OpusIUCN Red ListRSPBWikipedia, Xeno-canto

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