January 28th – A VERY Interesting Snow Bunting Recapture


Recapture #2411-94171 - Hilde Johansen

As you’re well aware (and I’ve tried to make clear), there are few Snow Buntings around due to this abnormally mild Winter, itself a consequence of a record extreme positive cycle in the Arctic Oscillation. For further up-to-date commentary on what is happening with the weather, check out Jeff Masters’ latest blog entry (for January 27th):


But where are the Snow Buntings that we “should” be seeing? As in many other passerine species, males, which arrive on the breeding ground earlier than females in order to establish breeding territories, will often winter as far north as they can to facilitate this early arrival – and beat their rivals to it. If this is the case, then “our” birds should be somewhere between us and Greenland – as we showed through recaptures from the Spring:  probably along the St.Lawrence or in Labrador.

So check out this very interesting recapture of a Snow Bunting banded by David Lamble in Fergus on January 8th, 2011:

Band Number: 2411-94171
Date banded: 01/08/2011
Banding Location: 10 KM E OF ARTHUR, ONTARIO, CANADA

Alexandre’s banding site – note the trap in the foreground and the St. Lawrence in the background. -A. Anctil

This bird was recaptured by Alexandre Anctil today(!) just outside of  Rimouski. A quick look at an atlas will show you that Rimouski is about halfway between Lake Ontario and Labrador along the south shore of the St. Lawrence Rive.

Also interesting, is that theory suggests that males, again to facilitate their earlier arrival on the breeding ground, will spend the Winter further north and thus closer to the breeding area. Last year David Lamble, who bands ~60 km north of us, got mostly males, while we captured mostly females. Alexandre (and his side-kick, Ludo Jolicoeur) so far have banded 40 and recaptured one; all but one of these have been males.

The site is right on the shores of the St. Lawrence. - A. Anctil

So, congratulations to Alexandre and Ludo. Just goes to show you the value of networking….


3 thoughts on “January 28th – A VERY Interesting Snow Bunting Recapture

  1. What an incredible story !!!!! Makes me want to run out and get banding. Up here in Timiskaming we are hoping to band just outside of newliskeard in a new area. we have about 100 birds that are regularily feeding on corn that we put out a week ago. There have been very few flocks around this winter as well but with a decent snow load right now that may change. I will post something when we have managed to band any birds to give the group an update

  2. Same weather story in southern Quebec, where winter is a sad, wet shadow of its usual self. As soon as we have more than 5 cm of snow the bunting show up in force…had 175 a couple of weekends ago. Subsequently, we lost most of the little snow we had and numbers dropped off dramatically, increasing again yesterday with a few more centimetres of snow. This morning it was pouring rain…time will tell if it will be worthwhile for the banders to show up this weekend. For those interested in the site, I include a web-cam address. On good days the driveway and the barn roof are covered with snow buntings. I’ve been watching for a banded bird, but haven’t spotted one yet. By the way, the Hav-a-hart trap is meant to prepare the buntings for Simon’s eventual arrival with his traps. So far the Mourning doves and cowbirds are much more confident than the buntings about feeding inside the trap.

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