March 5th – Missing Out

The 500th Snow Bunting banded this season. -NRF

You have to feel kind of badly for all those folks that are about to head south for Florida and beyond, ostensibly to take in some warmth and sunshine. What a shame! In most years we don’t see many (or any) Snow Buntings by the end of February – they need snow and cold and those conditions are usually gone by then. But this year we’re getting a treat – another cold snap! And with it Snow Buntings.

Actually we were having a pretty mediocre, if not downright poor, Snow Bunting banding season. We started banding them in 2010 and have averaged 1,406 per season. By the end of February we had banded only 346, not our lowest number by any means (we did only 40 in the non-Winter of 2012) but well below the average. We figured that was it. But you can never count Mother Nature (that capricious so and so) out. This cold snap has produced 226 Snow Buntings in March alone, including 77 yesterday and 98 today. And I just got word from Nancy (who was replenishing the bait at the Duxbury Road site) that there was a flock of about 250 feeding there. She will be heading out tomorrow to hopefully add to our total, which now stands at 572! It was a pretty tough go today: bitter cold and strong gusting winds that were blowing snow and filling the traps almost as fast as we could empty them. But, hey, that’s what bunting banding is all about.

So who would want to be heading for Florida and miss this bonanza!?

As an added bonus today we retrapped a Horned Lark that we had originally banded on February 17, 2016 (putting it in at least its 4th year) and a Snow Bunting that we banded on February 11, 2015. At that time it was in at least it’s 3rd year making it 6+ years old. What a tough old bird it must be to have made so many trips back and forth to the Arctic. We also retrapped a Snow Bunting (#1501-59970) that was banded by someone else, somewhere else – it will be interesting to find out this bird’s history.

Where we are in far southern Ontario we tend to get mostly female Snow Buntings. The males, so the theory goes, tend to stay further north, closer to the breeding ground so they can get back in time to set up territories before the females arrive. This reality is playing out again this year: of the 572 buntings banded only 105 (18.4%) have been males.

February 25th – Cross-Country (Snow Bunting) Checkup

-B. Maciejko

Ironically, as I got ready to put this all together today, the first early migrants appeared at my feeder: 5 male Red-winged Blackbirds and 3 male/1 female Brown-headed Cowbirds. Normally we would be in the thick of Snow Bunting banding at this point but it’s been an “odd” year. Not many Snow Buntings around and you’ll see from the comments below that this seemed to be the case throughout the country:

Maritime Provinces:
(February 22, 2019)
I have seen about a dozen twice in the last month, in Brookfield, NS.
Barb McLaughlin

(February 23, 2019)
There have been small, scattered flocks of Snow Buntings through January/February, mostly in coastal/beach areas.
Durlan Ingersoll
Grand Manan Island, NB


Hi Rick,
Here’s our numbers so far, we have a new bander working from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and it seems to be a hotspot for buntings! For the amount of snow we have, it’s a quiet winter here for Mirabel and Coteau.

Mirabel: 278 SNBU banded

Coteau-du-lac: 384 SNBU, 12 LALO and 1 HOLA

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu: 888 SNBU, 5 LALO and 1 HOLA

Simon Duval
Montreal, QC


(February 24, 2019)
HI Rick
Hope all is well. Thanks for reaching out to get a picture of snbu across the country; we are very curious about what has been happening . We have banded about 250 snow buntings and 2 Lapland longspurs this winter. We have three discrete sites that have buntings coming to food in the area. One is at Kerns Public [School] which is 15 km from New Liskeard Ontario where the majority of the birds have been banded. One is at our house near Hilliardton Marsh and the other is near Englehart. We hardly ever see birds as we are traveling the countryside and when we observe the flocks at the sites I mentioned the flocks seem to max out at about 100 birds; typically we see between 20-60 birds at a time. Of interest to banders is that until 2 days ago all of the birds banded at Kerns Public had been males; on Thursday we banded 3 females and Friday we banded another . On Sunday the flock near Englehart has grown to 250 birds and the flock by Hilliardton has grown to 60 birds, perhaps some of the southern buntings are arriving. This is our first winter feeding and banding near Hilliardton and we have high hopes of doing well here in March as the birds migrate back north. We have had an incredible winter of snow so I suspect we will have snow well into April on the fields allowing us to stretch our season as long as possible. Perhaps this year we will band snow buntings right up until the warblers arrive. Looking forward to finding some birds banded by someone else in March.

Bruce Murphy
New Liskeard, ON
Hilliardton Marsh Research and Education coordinator
Hilliardton Marsh Stewardship Youth Ranger team lead

(February 22, 2019)
Hello Rick,
I thought the Snow Buntings must be all down your way this winter! I was wrong – where are they?
I usually have 100 – 150 coming for feed as early as November, and continuing all winter, here at the farm, just SE of North Bay. This past fall ( and it was a wintery one) did not bring Buntings at all. Finally, just in time for Christmas, two arrived! By mid January the flock had expanded to 25 and has now grown to 50. Sure is nice to have them back, but a little worrisome that the group is so small.
I am curious to learn where they are, and where they are not.
Lori Anderson
North Bay, ON

Like snow flakes settling on a field. -B.Banks

(January 31, 2019)
Rick: Hi. I’m not sure any snow bunting sighting is of interest, but just fyi, I am assuming those are the birds I saw this afternoon in a big flock travelling across several windswept, cut cornfields near my house outside Roseneath, just below Rice Lake. I only moved here in the fall, from Toronto, and I’ve never seen snow buntings before. And hadn’t seen them up here either until today. Was a big flock. At least 200 birds, maybe 250-300. They moved in such a strange way when I first saw them. A tightly packed group, some barely leaving the ground, the rest in a couple of low swirling, swooping murmurations moving laterally across the field, landing and rising repeatedly. At first I wasn’t sure if I was seeing birds or a pile of leaves being driven along in the wind. Once I looked a bit longer and saw a couple of tight packs moving to and fro and could pick out the individuals, then I was sure they were birds. They were mainly white, especially on the undersides and didn’t seem very big. Sounds like snow buntings?

Snow Buntings well-camouflaged in the stubble. -B.Banks

I tried to snap a photo with my phone camera but they were so far away that I couldn’t get any focus or zoom. I’ve attached only to show that I saw what I’m saying I saw.

Brian Banks
Rice Lake area, ON

(February 22, 2019)
Hi! Rick
I saw ~ 150 on the road near Lindsay Ontario earlier this week, ~Feb 19.
First I have observed all winter.
Norm North
Lindsay, ON


(February 21, 2019)
Hi everyone,
Over here in Lanark Highlands, the Snow Buntings showed up late, around January 20th -but that is also right around the time we started getting winter, with lots of snow and cold.

Feeding frenzy. -N.Capitanio

Right now, I have about 30-40 individuals (pictures enclosed by Nat Capitanio).


Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids
Lanark, Ontario

(February 22, 2019)

Hi Rick
I did not catch many SNBU this year , I banded 180 ,3 LALO, 4 HOLA, and that was mostly in the last two weeks with 100 of those in a 24 hr period . Between the rain and the wind blowing and melting the snow cover all the time they were not around . I did see some large flocks of 500 plus a couple of time hit the traps but they did not stay or come back . Last week had a large flock 500 fly over me walking back to the traps and some came to ground and then a Merlin hit the traps and all the birds were gone as fast as they showed up and i have not seen any since. I have taken the traps out of the field as of yesterday and i think i am done for this season.

On another note i had a interesting recapture of a bird at our backyard feeder in January. I was watching the feeder birds for weeks and i noticed a ATSP that was banded and for weeks i assumed it was just one of the ones i banded last year . So when the weather got warmer I put up a net caught him and he was banded two yrs prior by Bruce Murphy up in Hillardton Marsh , I just thought it was cool he found our backyard bird feeder.
That is about it
Regards Glenn Reed
King City, ON

One of the few males buntings banded at our site. -N.Furber

(February 24, 2019)
Hi Rick:
The Snow Bunting season for the Ruthven Park Banding Station has been slow. It was a late start to the banding season, waiting for the snow and cold to bring the flocks to the bait site. Once the winter weather came though, the first Snow Bunting was banded on January 21st. In total, there were only 11 days between the months of January and February where the weather was suitable to set traps with enough snow cover and cold temperatures. Near the end of January, when the extreme cold set in with the Polar Vortex there was a good three days of banding. The best day was on January 31st when a total of 131 birds were handled – banding 121 Snow Buntings, 2 Horned Larks and 8 Snow Bunting retraps. The cold weather didn’t last, with temperatures soaring into the double digits and banding being put on hold … again.
To date, the overall banding total for the season is low with only 334 Snow Buntings, 2 Horned Larks, and 1 Lapland Longspur.
[PS Nancy banded another 8 today, braving the gales and driving snow.]

Nancy Furber…..and friend. -NRF

Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station
Cayuga, ON

(February 22, 2019)
Hi Rick,
Martin has had the same problem, just a few loose flocks here and there, but he keeps feeding with fingers crossed.
Terri Groh
Nature’s Advantage Inc
On the shore of Long Point Bay – between St Williams and Port Rowan – Southern Ontario

Hi Rick
I have seen a couple of good sized flocks in Norfolk County (Houghton Township) over the past few days. Photos attached. Details below:
– Feb 15, 2019: Flock of 500 (conservative estimate) flew in from the lake and began feeding in a corn field on the north side of Lakeshore Road, just west of CR 23
– Feb 18, 2019: Flock of 600 (counted by 20s from photos) were feeding in a corn field on the north side of Lakeshore Road, just west of 1st Concession. Hundreds landed in the skeleton of a Maple tree and appeared as blossoms. Quite lovely.

Best regards. Kathryn
Kathryn Boothby
Fairnorth Farm

(February 22, 2019)
Heard one a couple of days ago over our place, other than that I think they’re extinct.

Haven’t banded any this winter (yet), we need snow – 6″ to 8″ worth please, and also need it to hang around long enough for the SNBU to come south and find the corn
Dave Okines
Port Reyerse, ON

(February 22, 2019)
Hi Rick,
Snow Buntings have been very scarce in our local area of Essex and Chatham-Kent. I haven’t seen a single one nor has HBMO has banded any this winter.

Paul Pratt & Caroline Staddon
Wheatley, ON

Prairie Provinces:

-B. Maciejko

Hi Rick,
I hope your banders are doing well elsewhere, because I have little to offer them here. I’ve had 100+ on a few occasions, but usually more like 30-70, and those for only brief stops morning and late day. They’re eager enough for the millet while here, but not desparate. The mere sight of the traps sends them off. Its looking so bad that I haven’t even tried to entice your bander to come out this year. Her resources could (I hope) be better used somewhere else. This is yet another year with low numbers and uncooperative birds. I fear the winters of starting and ending my days with hundreds of noisy, hungry Snow Buntings filling the trees at the wood’s edge are gone for good. I’m ever hopeful, but not optimistic, that things will change and I’ll have better news in a later report.

-B. Maciejko

{Later same day] I’m busy dealing with a deeply drifted in driveway and yard, after a “white-out” storm last night and this morning, so haven’t time to look for any better [pictures]. I wanted, for whatever reason, to include some SY males, even though they make up only 5% or less of the entire flock. I originally thought the “dark” bird in the last photo was the one and only female in the flock, but its not too unlike the “confusing SY male” you included in a post a few years back. Thoughts?

Males in flight. -B.Maciejko

(Even the storm couldn’t convince the twenty-seven Snow Buntings present to stay longer than one hour after sunrise today. Now 1430h and no further sightings.)
All the best,
Bill Maciejko
2 1/2 miles west of Camp Morton, MB

(February 24, 2019)
Hi Rick,
I took a 600 km trip at highway speeds on Feb 24th and saw 4 groups of over 80 SNBU and 20+ flocks of less than 50. We are not seeing many in my area near the boreal forest. There is 1 flock of about 20 that I am aware of. The weather has been brutally cold for the last month and I haven’t banded any birds even at my home banding station. Lots of CORE around and some EVGR and PIGR which I hope to catch when the weather warms.

Bert Dalziel
Love, Saskatchewan

A nice alternative to Snow Buntings – Bohemian Waxwing. -M. Blom

(February 22, 2019)
Good afternoon from frigid Peace River Alberta! It’s been very cold here for the past two weeks, we thought the bait piles would have attracted SNBU’s but all we have coming to them are Ravens and Magpies. The SNBU’s are foraging in hay bales spread out by a farmer feeding cattle. We have concentrated our efforts trapping BOWA’s, 2018 brought our highest totals banding 354 waxwings since starting the project back in 2014, so far we are sitting at 132 Bohemian Waxwings since Jan.1/19. Will keep baiting our fields in hopes to get any new SNBU’s on their journey back to the arctic.

Mike Blom
Peace River, Alberta, Canada

Northwest Territories

(February 22, 2019)
Hey Rick,
Nice to hear from you! No bunting up here yet but that’s not surprising, I don’t think we will see them for another month at least, likely early April.
Only spring activity we’ve had is the ravens starting to pair. With warmer temps I’ve been hearing more songbirds and there have been sightings of BOWA and PIGR (winter residents but infrequently seen) but other than that, we are still very much in winter. Thankfully, we seem to be out of the deep freeze. This winter has been a cold one, January was essentially -30C the entire month with a few -42C days in there (without the windchill). I’m always astonished when I see HOSP at those temperatures. I know they are a non-native invasive but I can’t help but appreciate their tenacity.

Rhiannon Pankratz
Yellowknife, NWT

January 13 – Happy Returns

Snow Buntings feeding on millet. -B. Maciejko

Much of Canada has been experiencing a prolonged deep freeze, unusual in relation to the weather of the past decade or so. Here in southern Ontario the temperature plummeted in early December followed by bouts of snow and this lasted up until a couple of days ago. The Grand River froze over and my son and I were thinking about getting out on it with our skis – something we used to do in the “old days” pre global climate change. But suddenly the temperatures skyrocketed and, with the rain, ate up much of the snow.

Extracting buntings and larks is cold work in -20 weather. -IT

But during that month we had really good Snow Bunting conditions and we took advantage of them. By the time of the thaw we had banded 637 (as well as 136 Horned Larks and 28 Lapland Longspurs).

Jumbled ice pieces from the river opening up upstream, a product of the recent thaw and rain, jam up the river by the Cayuga dam.

Many of these ice slabs are 6″-8″ thick.

As soon as the snow disappeared, so did the buntings. However, yesterday the temperatures plunged again and we got a dusting of snow. We have been running two sites so we hurried out and put down bait. Within hours birds had returned although not in the large numbers we had been seeing. But if the weather stays cold and we get a little more snow then we should be back in business.

Around the time Snow Buntings were turning up at our bait sites in December, I got an email from Lise Balthazar who lives in Sheridan Rapids, Lanark County – not too far from Ottawa. Last February my wife and I had travelled up to her place to see if we could band some of the large flock of buntings she was attracting there. On one Sunday we banded 89. Lise wanted to tell me that two of the returning birds she had seen this year were sporting bands. I wonder how much of a role these birds may have played in guiding other flock members to this rich food source.

And within the first two weeks of banding in December we recovered 4 birds. Two were Snow Buntings; One had been banded in February of 2015 and the other in February of 2016. Interestingly (because we band many fewer of them) the other two were Horned Larks – banded in January and February, 2016.

Given all this Snow Bunting excitement, last week I put out a call to other members of the Canadian Snow Bunting Network to see what they had been experiencing. Here’s the results:


January 7, 2018
Not a single bird here in South East NB.
I’ve seen some around but none in the yard here. None taking feed.
Alain Clavette
Memramcook, NB

January 7, 2018
Nothing in Stewiacke Nova Scotia.
Barb McLaughlin

January 11, 2018
Rick and Oliver,
There is a flock of about 50 birds at the usual farm where I used to catch them. I also saw another flock of about 50 flying from a road I was driving on in that general area. I stopped catching them because I was getting too many blue jays and starlings in the traps. If I can find a better location are you still needing people to catch and band them? [Of course, Dorothy!!]

Depending on the cold weather I sometimes see them right here at my own house, and could trap them here if that is the case.
One was at our feeder last week, but only one.
Dorothy Diamond
Stanley area, NE of Fredericton, NB


January 7, 2018
Hi Rick
The SNBU in King City are not very cooperative. They are around. The strong winds have the fields partially blown bare. I have flocks of 25 to 150 but they will not stay at the bait very long if the traps are down. They circle around for five minutes and then leave – very frustrating. I have managed to catch 181, approximately 50% adults and 75% females, very different proportions from previous years.
Glenn Reed
King City, ON

January 7, 2018
Hi Rick – cold here too – Nipissing District just SE of North Bay.
I am still providing feed for SNBU, the flock was late to show up – a week into December, but this was certainly weather related – abundant natural food and warm temperatures to that point.
120 SNBU and 3 LALO are currently feeding. This is a high normal count for my feed station. Have not seen any banded birds – and I look!
Happy Banding,
Lori Anderson
North Bay, ON

January 12, 2017
I haven’t come across any around here although now that we are back in class, I haven’t had much time to do much else. Our semester has been extended until Monday. My idea was to throw some seed out on campus to see if I can get any to stick around. but there aren’t any good open areas nearby which means there are a lot of perches for shrikes, etc.
Darryl Edwards
Sudbury, ON

January 7, 2018
I hope you had a nice Holiday season. Over here, we have plenty of snow and frigid temperatures!
The Snow Buntings have been hanging around pretty much every day, but there is only about 40 to 60 of them, which is less than what we had last year.
They have been feeding mostly in the driveway, close to the house, so I’ve been able to examine them to see any leg bands. So far, I’ve only been able to spot 2 birds with a leg band. Mind you, they keep their legs covered most of the time and, of course, they don’t stay in place very long!

This morning, Sunday, more Buntings showed up and I have now about 100 of them.
Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids
Lanark County, ON

Prairie Provinces
January 10, 2018
Hi Rick,
I’ve no idea what the banding situation is around here. My own observations, and the notices I’ve received from loyal observers on social media and seen on eBird are not all that promising. Some large flocks (200-300) were seen in the south Interlake region several weeks ago. Since then reports are of small drifts (a few individuals to a few dozen) but never in the same place twice. I followed up the large flock seen earlier and found them in adjoining sections of harvested and tilled grain fields. They were gleaning the bare ground with large numbers of Redpolls, but these fields will be pretty much snow covered and barren now.

Here at home (west of Camp Morton) I had none until two showed up on Christmas Eve. Four-six have been making brief appearances since, until today when the flock swelled to a whooping sixteen! They’ve found the bait and are taking it, so we’ll see what happens.
Bill Maciejko
Interlakes, Manitoba

[Bill is a great photographer and, even more important, a keen observer of the natural world around him. I always enjoy seeing his Facebook pages with their colourful photos and thoughtful commentary. He has kindly allowed me to pass on some of their Snow Bunting content…..]

Flock of male Snow Buntings. -B. Maciejko

Male Snow Buntings. -B. Maciejko

Snow Bunting flocks wintering in this area are overwhelmingly, often exclusively, comprised of adult (ASY=After Second Year, in bird-geek-speak) males. Twenty-three were present this morning, seventeen when this single burst was captured just before noon. The one and only immature (SY) male of the flock appears in every frame. If inclined, compare the wing colour/pattern to find him

Two older (ASY) males – the righthand 2 birds – and a young (SY) male. -B. Maciejko

Not staying long enough for a “roost,” at least Snow Buntings were perching in a roost tree today…a good indication they’re considering settling in for the season.

An unusual sight: Snow Buntings roosting in trees. -B. Maciejko

I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but only yesterday did it register with me that Snow Buntings utilize the depressions made by deer hooves as ready made snow shelters, the sides of the “divits” concentrating the sun’s warmth while trapping body heat.

Snow Buntings taking shelter in deer hoof prints. -B. Maciejko

January 13, 2017
Had just over 100 Snow Buntings briefly this morning, and many are hanging around the yard, roosting in the poplars 30-50 at a time for most of the day.
If this keeps up for a few days, I’ll get in touch with Emily and we might get the traps out. Who knows?
It’s now 1530h and sixty-three just landed at the bait. I’ll keep you posted.
All the best,
Bill Maciejko

Yukon, NWT, Nunavut

January 12, 2017
Hello Rick and Marie, Happy New Year. We have had very cold weather here in the Yukon and as expected very few buntings. One adult male was seen near Kluane Lake on December 28. and we have a small flock hanging around the community of Haines Junction utilizing the agricultural fields. The flock appears to like oats and they were seen for the local CBC. This flock of up to 13 has been in the area since early December.

I am really interested to see how 2018 spring banding goes here after the previous successful season. Do either of you know if Emily McKinnon is banding in Manitoba?
I am looking at applying for a master banding permit and would like to know if my banding information has been utilized? I am not sure if I could be considered a collaborator for the Snow Bunting network?

I have attached last years banding info for you both, at the end of the emails. [Julie would likely send you her results if you asked. Bottom line: she banded 1,173 SNBU’s and 2 Lapland Longspurs. Her heaviest bunting weighed in at 55.6 g with a ‘5’ fat score!!]
Julie Bauer

January 15th – X-Country (SNBU) Checkup

This feeding flock in Lanark seems to consist entirely of males.   -L. Balthazar

This feeding flock in Lanark seems to consist entirely of males. -L. Balthazar

You have to love the prose of early naturalists. Here’s Thomas Nuttall writing about the arrival of migrating Snow Buntings in December:
“Early in December they make their descent into the Northern States in whirling, roving flocks, either immediately before or soon after an inundating fall of snow. Amidst the drifts, and as they accumulate with the blast, flocks of these illwars fogel, or bad-weather birds, of the Swedes, like the spirits of the storm are to be seen flitting about in restless and hungry troops, at times resting on the wooden fences, though but for an instant, as, like the congenial Tartar hordes of their natal regions, they appear now to have no other object in view but an escape from famine and to carry on a general system of forage while they happen to stay in the vicinity.” [Birds of the United States, 1891]
A "restless" flock.    -L. Balthazar

A “restless” flock. -L. Balthazar

I’m not sure the birds Nancy and I were seeing in December were from the natal regions of the “congenial Tartar hordes” (in fact, it would appear that some of these birds have come from Greenland based on band recoveries), but the flocks are certainly hungry as they descend on the countryside and very restless –their ‘flightiness’ reminds me a great deal of flocks of migrating shorebirds.

One of the reasons for developing the Canadian Snow Bunting Network is to try to understand why this delightful bird’s numbers have dropped by about 64% in the last 40 years (according to the National Audubon Society). This information was in an article in the in-flight magazine that Oliver Love and I chanced upon while flying south from Iqaluit (ironically) after a month of catching and banding both Common Eiders and Snow Buntings. The article attributed this decrease to “global warming”. I’ve given this a lot of thought but am still hard-pressed to see a connection.

Personally I think there’s something else at work and it’s related to another piece of “old” writing, in this case by P.A. Taverner in his Birds of Eastern Canada, 1919:
“Winter visitors in southern Canada, feeding on the weed-tops that project from the snow in open fields and rarely perching in trees. A flock alights in the weed-spotted snow and gradually works across it, the rear of the flock rising up from time to time like a flurry of snow and pitching ahead, the process being repeated until the whole field is covered.”

Industrial farming has done away with fields with projecting weed-tops. When I survey the large area around our trapping area outside the town of Hagersville in southern Ontario, all I see is a vast expanse of snow-covered fields. The only projecting plants are in thin and very occasional hedgerows – which Snow Buntings tend to shy away from. Round-up ready cropping has created huge deserts as far as winter-foraging birds are concerned. This is where I think the problem lies.

Marie-Pier Laplante, a Master’s student at the University of Quebec at Rimouski, has put together another excellent Canadian Snow Bunting Network Report in which you’ll see up-to-date developments (and makes you appreciate that all those hours generating data out in the cold are worthwhile!!).
The report can be viewed here:

Yukon, NWT, Nunavut


Prairie Provinces

January 16, 2017
Good Morning Rick,
Here in NW Alberta it has warmed up and my bait pile that had birds coming to it have taken a leave of absence. I had a couple hundred or so SNBU’s coming to my bait pile last week with -30c temps and this week its currently +2c. I will report back if I have any luck, I’m having hard times catching Snowy Owls this winter too, with all the canola and wheat laying in the fields this year because of an early snowfall in mid-October there are plenty of voles and mice for them to eat. It’s been a hard season to catch any birds.
Mike Blom
Wildfire Ranger II
Peace River Forest Area
Forestry Division
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

January 14, 2017
We have very few SNBUs in our area this year – once again!

Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
53-17-11N, 105-39-15W

January 15, 2017-01-15
[In response to my question: “Historically did SNBU’s winter in the area?”]
Yes, we see them every year in our travels around the countryside. For the most part, they seem to hang out in flocks of 50 to 200 birds, but it seems they are constantly on the move – seldom see them in the same place twice. The country here is so vast and there are so many fields of grain, especially this year where much of the crop remained unharvested, it would be nearly impossible to attract SNBUs to a specific area by baiting them.

…thought at one time that it would be possible to have them return to the site where I was feeding my horses, but they were there for a few days, then have not returned in years!

Harold Fisher
Prince Albert, SA


Kerns Elementary School's 6th School of Flock class - many with Snow Buntings that they're just banded.  -J. Goddard

Kerns Elementary School’s 6th School of Flock class – many with Snow Buntings that they’re just banded. -J. Goddard

January 15, 2017
Hi Rick, A few spread out flocks of SNBU around the area and it has only been in the past couple days that a flock of close to 100 have found the Kern’s site [Kern’s Elementary School]. We have only attempted two days of banding so far and have banded 32 Snbu two of which were female and 1 male Lalo. Hopefully it will pick up from now on. I know my students are looking for a good excuse to skip math class a few days a week!

Pictured here is the 6th School of Flock Class many holding snow buntings. Also Grade 6 student Cameron Aitchison who banded our first snow bunting of the year.

Cameron Aitchison, who banded the first Snow Bunting of the season.   -J. Goddard

Cameron Aitchison, who banded the first Snow Bunting of the season. -J. Goddard

Youthful bander and scribe in the Kerns Buntingmobile.   -J. Goddard.

Youthful bander and scribe in the Kerns Buntingmobile. -J. Goddard.

Joanne Goddard
New Liskeard, ON

January 15, 2017
Hello Rick and Bunting Enthusiasts,
It’s been a season of hungry Snow Buntings thus far, here at the farm – just southeast of North Bay, ON. They began to take feed once we had snow cover, a couple weeks before Christmas. Often I can count 200 at some point during the day – this is nearly double the number from previous seasons. An elderly gentleman had been feeding a flock for many years about 15 miles from here. He recently passed away – perhaps that flock moved to my feed.
We are thoroughly enjoying watching our Snow Bunting visitors – running on the fields, the roofs, the driveway and fluttering down from the sky like snowflakes.
May Snow Buntings be abundant for enthusiasts and banders this year.

Lori Anderson
North Bay (area), ON

A flock of Snow Buntings feeding busily.    -L. Balthazar

A flock of Snow Buntings feeding busily. -L. Balthazar

January 11, 2017
Good day!
I just wanted to send an update and pictures of the Snow Buntings on our property.
The numbers have been gradually increasing and we now have about 200 birds visiting and feeding every day.
I am still hoping you can find someone to come and band some of those birds!!!

Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids
Lanark, Ontario

Always an oddity - Snow Buntings in the treetops.    -L. Balthazar

Always an oddity – Snow Buntings in the treetops. -L. Balthazar

January 12, 2017
Good morning,
It is really cold here this morning and the Buntings are loving it! They have been very active in the last couple of weeks; we have about 150 to 200 individuals.
Marie-Pier sent me a copy of the Snow Bunting Bulletin and I noticed something on the map showing banding stations: there are none between Montreal and Lake Ontario! Our property is located just a little bit South of Ottawa which would make it a perfect location.
At the risk of repeating myself (which I have been doing for several years now ), can we work on finding someone who could come and band some of the birds on our property? Or at least someone who could come and show me how to do it? I am more than willing to learn!
I really do believe that we could get some very valuable information from our Lanark Highlands flock, both from banding birds and from birds which have already been banded.
Let me know your thoughts.

Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids Road
Lanark, Ontario

January 9, 2017
Hello Rick,
I had never seen or even heard of snow buntings before today. I’m obviously not an experienced birder!
Today, though, a huge flock of these birds (100+) came through our property just north of Goderich, Ontario. It took some detective work to figure out that they were snow buntings and that research led me to you and your banding efforts.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos, but I wasn’t sure if the sighting report itself would be helpful. If they’re still around tomorrow, I’ll venture out with the camera.

Colin Carmichael
Goderich, ON

January 14, 2017
[In reponse to my question whether they were still around:] Sorry no. It seems they were just passing through. I haven’t seen them since Sunday.

Colin Carmichael
Goderich, ON

January 14, 2017
The lack of snow and warm temperates have caused the birds to disappear. .
….I am hoping Motus will give us an idea of where they go …. only banded around 200 … back to my preponderance of males… perhaps 90%

David Lamble
Fergus, ON

January 14, 2017
Hello Rick
Snow Buntings in King City are not very good at the moment we have banded 200 with one return and a foreign bird the same day . Every time it snows there is a flock of about 80 that come around but then it rains and they go away so we will hope for some more snow and no rain also there is very little snow on the ground at the trapping site.
Foreign Recovery 2641-34112 captured in King City January 1 2017 5LP MPL 108 WING FAT OF 2 WEIGHT 34.4

Regards Glenn (Reed) and Theresa (Mckenzie)
King City, ON

January 15, 2017
We got some warm weather and rain in early January and our birds disappeared. But around January 7th we got 2 cm of snow and the temperature dropped…..and the Snow Buntings returned. We banded 64 on the 8th; 70 on the 9th; and 16 on the10th. And then mild again……

Rick Ludkin & Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station
Cayuga, ON



Maritime Provinces

January 14, 2017
Rick, nothing yet on McKay Siding Rd just north of Stewiacke in NS, although my husband saw a small flock of “my little white birds” two weeks ago on the NS shore of the Bay of Fundy west of Maitland.

Barb McLaughlin
Stewiacke, NS

January 14, 2017
Hi Rick and all
Here in south eastern New Brunswick, I have seen only a few birds and none came down on the seeds yet.
I am now teaching ornithology at Université de Moncton and would LOVE to ne able to band with my students so we will try hard to bait a flock in the next weeks
As for photos; I am not sure if you meant of birds THIS year or just photos of SNBU in general ? Cause I have some serious bank of images if you need them for education or for a publication for the network. I’ll be pleased to send you some
Merci beaucoup!

Alain Clavette
Memramcook, NewBrunswick