The male Snow Bunting returns to its high Arctic breeding grounds
in early April,
when temperatures can still dip as low as -30° C (-22° F)
and snow still covers most of the ground.
The female does not return until four to six weeks later.
Snow Bunting males set up and defend territories that include good
They will still come together in flocks to forage,
and usually roost in loose groups of from 30 to 80 birds.
The Snow Bunting places its nest deep in cracks or other cavities
Although such nest sites are relatively secure from predators, rocks
The thick nest lining of fur and feathers helps keep the eggs and
but the female must remain on the nest for most of the incubation
The male feeds her while she is incubating so that she does not
need to leave the nest very often.
Although breeding and nonbreeding males look quite different,
the Snow Bunting has only one molt each year and no true "Alternate
After the molt in the late summer the male looks brownish with a
brown and black striped back. Underneath the colored feather tips,
the back feathers are pure black
and the body feathers all are white.
The male wears off all of the feather tips by actively rubbing them
and he is immaculate white and jet black by the time breeding begins.
The Snow Bunting is 15 cm (6 in) long, and has a wingspan of 30
cm (12 in).
The weight is from 31 to 46 g (1.09-1.62 ounces) .
male clean black-and-white, female streaked with gray and rufous.
Similar in nonbreeding plumage, but female with darker wings.
The Snow Bunting breeds on rocky tundra.
Winters in open weedy and grassy fields and along shores of lakes
mainly of weed and grass seeds, insects.
on ground and pecks at food. May jump up to take seeds from taller
type is an open cup of moss and grass, lined with fine grasses,
and fur and feathers.
Placed well back in cavity in rocks, such as cracks.
In the clutch
there might be from 2 to 7 eggs.
They are creamy white with variable brown spots and scrawls.