To a snow bunting, even the coldest days of our winter feel balmy. The vast majority of snow buntings breed in the Arctic regions of Greenland, Scandinavia, Alaska and Canada during the summer months, before migrating to our "warm" Outer Hebrides climate for the winter. They start to arrive in North Uist during September and can be seen forming quite large flocks as winter progresses.
Snow buntings are large buntings, with striking 'snowy' plumages. In summer, the male birds have all white heads and underparts which contrast with their black mantle and wing tips. The females are more mottled on their upper body. In autumn and winter, the birds develop a sandy/buff wash to their plumage and males have more mottled upperparts.
There are an estimated 60 pairs that breed in the UK, making them an Amber List species. They are more widespread in the north and eastern parts of the UK, particularly favouring coastal areas of Scotland and eastern England.
We photographed this beautiful snow bunting in the Machair of North Uist, near our cottage, during September 2017.