Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Passeriformes Family: Emberizidae
BTO Codes: SB, SNOBU EURING No: 18500
Number in Britain: Unavailable
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Subspecies: nivalis, insulae recorded in Britain (of 4 subsp. in the world)
Length: 16 cm Wingspan: 35 cm Weight: M: 42 g   F: 35 g    
Scientific name from: Gr.: plektron=a cock's spur + phenax=impostor and L.: nivalis=snowy (from nivus=snow)
World Distribution: BREEDS: N Eurasia, n North America, WINTERS: south to s Europe, c Asia, s US
Habitat: Dry tundra, rocky shores
Diet: Mostly seeds, summer insects (esp. for young), almost always on ground
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: No population trend available
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Winter: . to . individuals in 1981 - 1984
    Summer: 60 Pairs in 2007
    First Record: 1678 [Fossil evidence from Devensian (last) glaciation, 10-120,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Forrester, R.W. et al. (2007) The birds of Scotland SOC, Edinburgh
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Small Breeding Population,
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: nivalis AMBER (Rare or Localised), insulae AMBER (Rare or Localised)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: 680 thousand to 1.7 million pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WCA(I,IV), Bern(III)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Results from the Winter Farmland Bird Survey

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 22 x 16 mm Egg Weight: 3.1 g (of which 6 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 5
Clutch Size: 4 - 6 eggs
Incubation: 12- 13 days   by the: Female
Fledging: 12 - 14days as: Altricial, downy
First Clutches Laid: Unavailable
Number of Broods: 1-2
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.630       
Juvenile Survival: No data
Age at First Breeding: 1 year Typical Lifespan: 3 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 8 years 11 months 2 days (set in 2005)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: B
Wing Length Adult: 106.5 ± 4.0 Range 102 - 113 mm, N =1535
Juvenile: 106.4 ± 3.1 102 - 113 mm, N =1231
Male: 110.2 ± 3.3 104 - 115 mm, N =348
Female: 105.4 ± 3.5 102 - 109 mm, N =1184
Weight Adult: 33.04 ± 3.32 Range 28.50 - 39.00 g , N =1386
Juvenile: 31.42 ± 2.40 27.80 - 35.80 g , N =1047
Male: 35.08 ± 3.42 30.50 - 40.90 g , N =309
Female: 32.45 ± 3.05 28.40 - 37.70 g , N =1074
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Gaelic: Gealag-an-t-sneachda Welsh: Bras yr Eira
Danish: Snespurv Dutch: Sneeuwgors
Finnish: Pulmunen French: Bruant des neiges
German: Schneeammer Hungarian: Hósármány
Icelandic: Snjótittlingur Irish: Gealóg Shneachta
Italian: Zigolo delle nevi Norwegian: Snřspurv
Polish: Sniegula zwyczajna Portuguese: Escrevedeira-das-neves
Spanish: Escribano nival Swedish: Snösparv
Local Names: Snowflake

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Nethersole-Thompson, D. 1966 The snow bunting Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh [598.992 NET]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides
All About Birds (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)