Rick gets pretty excited whenever anyone mentions Snow Buntings, so I thought I would make a post about one I saw the other day. Just before dusk a few days ago, on one of those really cold days with -30 windchill, a Snow Bunting showed up at my feeder. Snow Buntings aren’t a particularly common feeder visitor, but they do seem to occasionally visit feeders when the weather is harsh. We have a fair bit of snow in Hamilton this year so perhaps the deep-ish snowpack combined with the cold weather were enough to send him looking for some fast food. My house is in Copetown, and I’m surrounded by agricultural fields, so it probably wasn’t a very long trip to get to my feeder for this guy. He even stood by patiently while I walked outside and took a picture of him.
Snow Buntings are migratory birds that spend their breeding season in the High Arctic. They winter in the prairie and eastern agricultural regions of North America, generally feeding on plants that poke up through the snow. Male Snow Buntings will head back to the Arctic in April, when the temperature can still be -30 or lower. Snow Buntings nest in rock cavities on the the ground, and the males arrive back to the Arctic early to stake out claims to the best territories they can get. Apparently the competition is intense. The females arrive 4-6 weeks later, once the weather is a bit more agreeable. The rocks that the Buntings breed on can provide a harsh microclimate for incubation, so the female tends to remain on the nest almost constantly and the male provides her with food. Snow Buntings begin leaving the Arctic in mid- to late-September, and begin arriving back on their wintering ground by mid- to late-October.
(Information paraphrased from Birds of North America Online).