Tame birds and Origins
Like the Lapland Bunting I think it’s often assumed that most Snow Buntings arrive in Britain from Scandinavia. Sure that’s what I used to think. However detailed ringing studies and analysis of trapped individuals has shown that 3 populations of 2 races reach Britain. Nominate nivalis from Greenland (and west), nominate nivalis from Scandinavia (and east) and ssp. insulae from Iceland. In fact the last form, the Icelandic Snow Bunting seems to be the commoner form. It has also been mooted as a ‘split’ to be classified as a full species.
Enough of that scary stuff now! Here two 1st winter males. They seem to me to be pretty obvious examples of the 2 different races. One of the form insulae, one of the form nivalis. Both at Spurn. The Icelandic male, a real show-off, stayed for a day right in front of my caravan. Even patrolling the roof of Ian Smith’s car.
Birding is full of surprises! Maybe Snow Buntings hold a few more. The Siberian race ssp. vlasowae is supposed to have occurred or been reported at least 6 times in Western Europe. Be good to get more details on these…
First set of photos below- 1st winter male Icelandic Snow Bunting (ssp. insulae). Late September, outside my caravan, Spurn, east Yorkshire, by Ian Smith. Then a couple great photos at end of same age/stage nominate race bird.
Look, I can slide! all the above -ssp insulae.
2 shots of a nominate 1st winter male below, to compare.
Above 2 photos: 1st winter male Snow Bunting , nominate nivalis, Sammy’s Point, Spurn, October 2009, Glyn Sellors