The Snow Bunting is a
winter visitor to South Dakota. They are most easily observed after a
fresh snowfall, where they can often be found foraging along the edges of roads,
often in mixed flocks with Horned Larks and
Lapland Longspurs. Starkly white with black patches in the
summer (males), they become duller with pale brown and white coloring during
their winter visits to the state. Strongly preferring their summer Arctic
habitat, they are generally very late to arrive in the winter, and very early to
leave in the spring. Males usually leave a month before the females in the
spring to establish breeding territories, arriving on the breeding grounds when
it's often still extremely cold.
Habitat: Summer habitat is the northern Arctic tundra,
preferably in areas with rocky outcrops. In winter, they can be
found in a wide variety of open habitats, including farmland, shortgrass
prairie, and shorelines.
Diet: Primarily seeds and insects, with
seeds making up a large portion of the diet in all seasons. Will also
occasionally feed on leaves and buds, and on small crustaceans and mollusks in
Behavior: Forages by walking on the ground.
Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota
Song: Repeated series of strong high trilling notes.
Migration: Summers in Arctic. Winters in
much of Canada and the northern half of the U.S.
Similar Species: McKay's Bunting (not found in
Conservation Status: Breeding range is generally beyond most
human influence. Widespread and common.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Snow Bunting
Photo Information: January 19th, 2009 - Minnehaha
County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Snow Bunting photos.