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snow bunting

snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
Photo © Mary Kay Rubey

Features and Behaviors

The snow bunting averages six to seven inches in length (tail tip to bill tip in preserved specimen). In winter, this bird may show some brown, but the feathers are mostly white. The white areas on the wings are easily seen when it is flying. The male in summer has black back feathers, white head feathers and underparts and a large, white patch on each wing.

The snow bunting is a common migrant and winter resident in Illinois decreasing southward in the state. It lives in fields, lake edges, roadsides and feedlots or pastures where manure is present or has been spread. The snow bunting may migrate north very early (January) or much later (April). It breeds in the Arctic. Fall migrants begin arriving in Illinois in late September. This bird eats seeds, insects and fruits.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Calcariidae

Illinois Status: common, native