SNOW BUNTING – (Plectrophenax nivalis)
The Snow bunting is a passerine bird that breeds in the Arctic and spends winters south of that region, including in PEI. It is then very common and can be observed in flocks in the fields, where it feeds on weed seeds. It is around 15 cm (6 in.) long and is mostly white, with the back and the wing tips black and the bill yellow-orange. The under parts are white.
The snow bunting is also called snowflake due to its flying patterns in the fields in the winter. The flocks also vocalize in flight, as can be seen in one of the photos below, where several birds have their bills open. The summer diet includes plant seeds but also invertebrates.
Snow buntings make their nests in cavities, either natural or on buildings. The nest is lined with down and feathers as insulation from the cold, and the female stays on it to protect the chicks from the cold. She is then fed by the male.
Conservation: with the Arctic warming up sooner in the spring due to climate change, snow buntings tend to return to their breeding areas earlier, thus bringing a mismatch between the timing of their arrival and the timing of their food sources.