Tag Archives: Plectrophenax nivalis

A good year

Sólskríkja / Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

The Snow Bunting is a high Arctic bird that breeds as far as the Northernmost regions of Greenland and Canada. It is common in Iceland where it lives the whole year round although in many countries it is a passerine. It used to be a very common breeding bird in the highlands but with rising temperatures the Icelandic stock has decreased. This summer has been fairly cold and seems to have been a good breeding year for Snow Buntings in Iceland.

With the beak full of flies for the nestlings

The Snow Bunting builds its nest deep in cracks in rocks. The nest is lined with feathers and fur, made with care to keep the eggs and chicks warm in the cold rock.

Young Snow Bunting (juv.)

In wintertime it goes round in huge flocks and comes into towns in search of food but putting out feed especially for Snow Buntings has been something of a tradition in Iceland. In the summer time the Snow Bunting goes under the name “Sólskríkja” which translates as sun screecher.

Lonely Snow Bunting

Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

On one of the few cold days this winter, that was about two weeks ago,  a lone Snow Bunting visited the garden. The first day it seemed a bit dazed and tired. We even thought it was seeking refuge here to die. But after a day or two it was up to par and stayed here alone for a week, enjoying the food we put out for it. Flocks of Snow Buntings have flown over but this is the only one in the garden this winter.

Winter birds

In the cold weather there are a lot of Snow Buntings in the lowlands and especially in the towns where they expect to get food.

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Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

For us they represent the winter because in the summer their colours are different and you only come across them in the highlands.

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Snjótittlingur – Snow Bunting – Plectrophenax nivalis

Here they are in our garden here in Selfoss.

Snow Buntings arrive

The Snow Buntings arrived in town today. They prefer the open fields in the highlands but when it gets colder and the snow covers everything, they come in huge flocks.

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Snow Buntings

They change colours with the seasons. In the summer the males are white and black but in winter they are browner and darker. Beautiful birds but because there are so many of them people tend to take little notice of them.

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Snow Bunting – male in summerform (July)

In Iceland the Snow Bunting is called Snjótittlingur similar in meaning to Snow Bunting but in the summer it is called Sólskríkja which means the bird that sqeaks in the sun, Sun Bunting. The song of the male is very vocal and high and the Sun Bunting is the symbol of the highlands.