Sunday, 25 January 2015

Snow Bunting (Plectrophane des neiges)

Metz Area
Wellington County, ON
25 January 2015

     Surely one of the most delightful benefits of living in a climate where winter dominates for part of the year is the presence of Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis.

     This morning Miriam and I spent a few hours in a corner of Wellington County where we have had great success in locating this species over a period of several years. Today proved to be no exception.
     One fellow, who we see almost every year, seems to be intent on banding as many Snow Buntings as he possibly can and he was again present plying his métier. 

     As you can see, he had three cages set up, all baited with corn, and the availability of food seems to be an attraction many of the birds simply cannot resist. At all times each of his cages contained several birds and even after emptying them there were other birds entering the trap in short order.

     It seemed to us that he did not empty the pens as often as might be hoped and when he did he placed eight or ten birds in a bag to carry them back to his truck from where he was applying the bands and recording the appropriate details.

     However, we are not privy to the protocols of banding Snow Buntings so perhaps this is accepted practice.

     The day was cold (around minus 13°C) and there was a strong wind, but these tiny birds face the conditions without any problem at all and are expert in exploiting every micro climate in their search for food.

     We were parked off to the side of the road ( a dirt road in this area) and the birds were often observed feeding on grit. They always seemed to park in front of our vehicle, however, never coming to the side to permit decent photographs.
     It was quite marvelous to spend a half hour with these little gems and we hope to repeat the experience a few times before the winter is over.


  1. They are so cute! .I am not sure why I dislike the idea of banding. But, I guess the birds are not hurt during the procedure.. Adorable birds and photos..

  2. I am not 100% wild about banding myself, Eileen. I can see the logic when trying to monitor the movements of endangered species, but I think the kind of activity we witnessed this morning is akin to sport for the bander. The welfare of the birds and the reasons for banding them are probably secondary.

  3. Beautiful birds, David. Now I know what to think about when I'm listening to the song Snowbird by Anne Murray.
    Gr Jan W

  4. They certainly are tough little birds, and attractive ones too. I have mixed feelings about banding as well, but some of the work done the our wader studies group has and still is finding out all sorts of information which may help those working to enable long distance migratory birds to survive. They've found some species use staging area they didn't know about for example, and different routes the birds fly. Much of that is using geolocators though, not just banding.

  5. These magnificent snow buntings.
    I understand that banding is sometimes necessary to be able to follow the birds.
    A good new week, David.
    Best regards, Irma

  6. Lovely birds David. This way of atracting the birds I do not find atractive eather. This way the same birds will be captured over and over again. In winter you can find these birds in our seroudings as well but more on the coast. So I have not been able to see them yet.

  7. Hello David,
    What a wonderful birds. Good that you show this whit your pictures.
    It's sad that once again the people interfere with this species. Leave these animals alone.

    Best regards,

  8. Wow, look at them all. I've seen ONE Snow Bunting all winter and it flew off as soon as I noticed it.

  9. Magnificent bird snow buntings, beautiful photos David.
    Greetings Tinie

  10. These are gorgeous birds, David, and I feel privileged to have seen them myself this winter. I've also seen how hardy they are in rough weather, having managed some record shots of them flying in blizzard conditions one January in the Cairngorms, Scotland (You and I will be passing that place in July!).

    As you know, I have mixed feelings about ringing/banding. However, I'm thinking that this might not be as bad as what I believe to be the standard UK practice of setting up mist nets overnight and leaving them until dawn before checking for birds. This surely leaves them vulnerable to predation, whereas what you are showing does seem to offer them some protection until they are removed from the traps.

  11. I agree with Richard on this ringing/banding issue...
    The practice, however accomplished, must most certainly kill a number of individuals, especially in the condition Richard describes.
    Anyhow, these Snow buntings are pure beauties, I might never see them myself!!
    So imagine how I enjoyed this post!!
    Keep well, tons of hugs to the both of you!

  12. I must take issue with Richard's comment. Nowhere in the UK are mist nets set at night to remain unchecked until the following morning. This does NOT happen.

    Meanwhile I agree that in such an apparently public place the bander you show should ensure that his work is fully explained to members of the public who are there.

    Not many Snow Bunts here in Lanzarote by the way.

  13. Very beautiful this snow buntings. I was one of the lucky ones who saw them last year at ht beach. I have also taken photos but never posted. Now I see your here then I will yet again very happy:-)

  14. A little sad look at these beautiful birds cage. But I know that there are very short. Regards.

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