McKay's Bunting is likely one of the least seen of North American birds, as
it only is found on a few remote islands in the Bering Sea in the summer,
and in winter typically only migrates as far as western Alaska. They
are very closely related to the Snow Bunting,
and the two species have even been noted to interbreed. Total global
populations of the species are no more than a few thousand birds. They
are the whitest of the North American songbirds, with males in breeding
plumage only having a little bit of black on the wings.
Habitat: They can be found breeding in a variety
of habitats in their extremely limited range on the Bering Sea islands of
St. Matthew and Hall Islands, including rocky tundra or rocky beaches.
In winter they are found on beaches and nearby areas near the coast.
Diet: Feeds on insects and spiders in summer.
Seeds also make up a big portion of the diet, and are the primary diet in
the winter. They may also occasionally feed on very small marine
invertebrates along the coast.
Behavior: Usually gregarious outside of the
breeding season, feeding in flocks. Foraging is done by walking and
running along the ground.
Nesting: The nest is found in a protected crevice
among the rocks, or in a cavity in a cliff face or piece of driftwood.
The nest is built of grasses and other herbaceous vegetation. Other
details on nesting are poorly understood, but it is likely that the female
does the majority of the incubation of eggs, while both parents help to feed
and raise the young.
Song: Song of the McKay's Bunting is low throaty
warbling. The song of the McKay's Bunting is evidently nearly
identical to the Snow Bunting.
Migration: Summer breeding grounds are isolated
islands in the Bering Sea. Wintering birds are thought to mostly
migrate to the west coast of Alaska, and they are only very rarely found
away from their normal range.
Conservation Status: Total global populations of
the species are no more than a few thousand. Populationscurrently appear
stable, but given the small range and population of the species, habitat
loss or other disruption could seriously endanger the species. The
IUCN currently lists the McKay's Bunting as "near threatened".