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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Snow Bunting

Bird Sightings - Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

(Snowflake, Snaa Fuhl)

Pletrophenax nivalis

Gaelic: Gealag-an-t-sneachd

Photograph © Andy L
Lemreway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
9th December, 2009

Our Snow bunting photographs

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

  • Snow Bunting (Snowflake, Snaa Fuhl)
  • Plectrophenax nivalis
  • Gaelic: Gealag-an-t-sneachd
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • UK: AMBER LIST 70 - 100 prs (Summer) 11,000 birds (Winter) RSPB
  • Breeds: Tundra, treeless moorland (rock crevices). Arctic: (Circumpolar) Greenland, Iceland, North America, North Europe - A Few in North Scotland. (Has bred on St Kilda)
  • Winter: Heads South: South Europe, Central Asia, South USA
  • Diet: Ground feeder: Mostly seeds (summer insects for young), rocky shores (follows wrack-line), short & open vegetation, sand dunes
  • Large buntings. Summer males: Heads & underparts all white with black back & wing tips. Females & juveniles pale ginger above, white below. In Autumn & winter the white has a sandy or buff wash & males' upperparts more mottled. Flight: large white wing patches. Not shy. Forms flocks
  • Listen to a Snow Bunting (RSPB site)


The most Northerly breeding landbird, the Inuit equivalent of our house sparrow.

Flocks in flight: Hindmost birds leap-frog the front ones, creating a blizzard-like flurry of white wings & tails-markings - hence the Orkney name snowflake

Snow buntings have very occasionally formed flocks of 200 birds here (Feb 04).


" Snow Buntings...at this time of year they will be eating whatever seed they can find as well as  invertebrates (Sandhoppers).

Our(Scottish) Snow Buntings could be under threat of being wiped out entirely due to climate change(New Scientist March). Briefly,...Global warming has resulted in less snow at higher altitudes and because they rely on the invertebrates stranded in the snow  then flushed out  by melt-water, then their future certainly does look bleak."

Frank Stark, October 7th, 2008




Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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