Arctic species: Snow Bunting

Then it’s time for the last bird in this series of Arctic Species. The Snow Bunting is the only regularly occurring member of the song birds on Spitsbergen. There are other song birds showing up occasionally, but it took me 6 years to see any other species as the Snow Bunting. The song of the Snow Bunting isn’t very impressive or complicated, but it’s always a cheerful sound to hear on the tundra.

Male Snow Bunting on Spitsbergen

This song can be first heard on Spitsbergen in March, but the majority of the birds arrives in April. They are predominantly seedeaters, but will also catch insects, especially when feeding their chicks. They built their nest in protected places like rock cracks or sometimes even in buildings and they can have several clutches in a year. Their breeding cycle is very quick, with only an incubation fase of around two weeks and then another two weeks before the chicks fledge.

Snow bunting feeding a chick

In August-September, when summer is over, the birds leave again to their wintering grounds on the Russian steppes north of the Caspian Sea and in Kazakhstan.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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