Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, is a large sparrow with a white head and belly. It breeds on the tundra and in rocky areas of the circumpolar region in the high Arctic. During the winter, it is found in fields and pastures, along roadsides, and on shores in the northern United States, southern Alaska, and southern Canada. Snow buntings are rare visitors to northern Utah, where they have been spotted in valleys, in the foothills, and along roadsides at higher elevations.

The snow bunting forages on the ground or on shorelines for a variety of food items, including insects, seeds, spiders, mollusks, and crustaceans. The young are fed an exclusive diet of insects. Males participate in a courtship display for the females, and a pair bond is formed. The female either lines a rock cavity or builds a loosely constructed nest. She incubates four to seven eggs for about two weeks, after which time both parents care for the hatchlings. The nestlings leave the nest after about two weeks.


  • National Geographic Society. 1996. Field guide to the birds of North America, 2nd edition. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.