Snow buntings flock during a snowstorm in New York
© Marie Read/Minden Picture
A flurry of 'snowflakes'. Snow buntings take flight
These snowflakes have feathers! The birds you see in this wintry image are snow buntings, sometimes referred to as 'snowflakes' because of the distinct white in their wings. These medium-sized Arctic specialists love the cold and travel farther north than other passerine birds. Only ravens can be found north of snow buntings.
But when winter weather approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, snow buntings migrate south and settle across southern Canada, the northern US, and parts of Europe and central Asia. By early April, male snow buntings will begin their long return to the cold north to search for quality nesting areas, with female buntings arriving about six weeks after the males. While these birds are not currently endangered, the effects of global warming could potentially impact future populations, as a warmer climate threatens to shrink their habitats and upset the balance between their peak breeding and feeding seasons.