Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

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The snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), sometimes colloquially called a snowflake, is a passerine bird in the Calcariidae family .

The snow bunting is a sexually dimorphic medium size passerine bird. This passerine is a ground-dwelling species that walks, runs and could potentially jump if needed. It is fairly large and long-winged for a bunting. It measures 15 cm with a wingspan of 32–38 cm (13–15 in) and weights 30 to 40 grams. The bill is yellow with a black tip, and is all black in summer for males. The plumage is white in the underparts and the wings and back have black and white on them.

The female and male have a different plumage. During the mating season: the male is completely black and white with black tips in the wings, while the female will have the same coloration than the male in the wings but will have a red-brownish color in her back.

During the winter season they will both have a rufous coloration in the back. In the spring, the buntings will not go through a molt as other passerines birds do, instead the breeding coloration comes with the wearing and abrasion of the feathers. Unlike most passerines, it has feathered tarsi, an adaptation to its harsh environment. No other passerine can winter as far north as this species apart from the common raven.

Visitor in winter time.

photo: Mihai BACIU


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