Snow buntings have been making their way through southern Wisconsin, returning from their high Arctic nesting grounds. With a splendid white underside and copper back and face, snow buntings' markings merge with the coming winter snowstorms. Their copper ear coverts give the appearance of blushing—a modest bird.
Male snow buntings make their way to the Arctic by early April, when temperatures still hover in the negative double digits. While most of the Midwest wriggled uncomfortably in the polar vortexes last year, snow buntings felt the familiar spring breeze of the northern limits of the earth.
During the nesting season, snow buntings have no northern limit and are circumglobal in their distribution; stretching from Canada to Russia to Norway. Some research suggests that snow buntings are bound by southern limits relating to light regimes—when there is not enough light, the buntings are not able to reproduce.
You can look for snow buntings at Faville Grove in open fields, along gravel roads, and on power lines. Perhaps the rock outcroppings of the ledge savanna offer similar habitat to the rocky tundra where they spend their “summers.”
Written by Drew Harry, Faville Grove Land Steward
Photo by Eric Begin, Flickr Creative Commons