Snow Buntings are like sparkling snow flakes and observing huge flocks of them in flight is a beautiful sight. They only appear in towns in the coldest of weathers when snow makes it impossible for them to find food. Sometimes they can be counted in the hundreds.
For Icelanders the Snow Bunting, in Icelandic “snjótittlingur” (snjór=snow) is a winter bird. In the summer it is also a symbolic bird, representing the summer time. Then it is referred to by a different name “Sólskríkja” (sól=sun). Its plumage changes with the seasons, see in summer time: https://ornosk.com/2017/07/28/a-good-year/
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 is decreasing.
This winter has been mild and very little snow until now. The Snow Bunting is a bird that seldom comes into towns but prefers the highlands and remote corners of the country for breeding and in winters, fields and grassland. When the earth is covered with snow and they have difficulty finding food, they come into towns. Since it snowed in the beginning of the week they have been here in the garden and we have counted over a hundred of them.
The Snow Buntings eat seeds and special Snow Bunting feed that has been available in Iceland for decades and consist e.g. of ground maize.
Snow Buntings have frequented Icelandic gardens all over the country this winter. In the past few weeks they have been seen in huge flocks and we counted 400 birds here in our garden in Selfoss. Last year, however, we didn’t see any Snow Buntings here.
This winter has been harsher than in previous years, with long lasting frost and snow. In the last century The Snow Bunting was the typical Icelandic winter bird and usually the only bird to be seen in winter along with the Raven. In the last few decades there has been a change and the Snow Bunting has been seen more rarely in Icelandic gardens.
The reasons for this change are not certain and people speculate whether this is due to a decrease in the stock. However, an increase in corn production in agricultural could be reducing the Snow Buntings need to come into gardens for feed, at least when snows do not cover the fields.
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.
When thick layers of snow cover everything the Snow Buntings flock into gardens for food. Under these circumstances they are very tame and no need for long telephoto lenses to photograph them. This photo is taken with a 50mm lens about two meters from them.
Now it’s 3 days and everyone is so busy doing all the things people are supposed to do for Christmas. Remember to think about the things that matter. Being healthy is not guaranteed, money can’t buy happiness and be thankful for the troubles you don’t have.
Lend a helping hand – and if not your hand your ear <3
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.
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.
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.