Birds in a Blizzard: Snow Buntings

I ventured forth during the tail end of the Blizzard of ’17, after the state of emergency and travel restrictions were lifted. Despite poor visibility and hazardous travel on country roads, I discovered a favorite winter bird: snow buntings!

The diminutive snow birds, 20 or 30 in all, were foraging on weed seeds protruding above the deep snow. Like their arctic neighbors, snowy owls, snow buntings thrive in winter conditions that force most animals to shelter in place: windswept, snow-covered fields with wicked cold temperatures and wind chills. I don’t ever recall seeing snow buntings when the weather was photographer-friendly, i.e. warm and sunny with blue skies!


Snow buntings access seeds by walking, perching, jumping and fluttering. It’s a fascinating, sometimes comical scene of constant movement and occasional bickering.






There are many things to love about these little songbirds, but what impacts me most is their journey, the way it connects me to another part of North America, the realization that the males will soon morph into breeding plumage and be staking out frozen tundra nesting territories in another month. I never cease to be amazed at the wonders of nature and, after this experience, am grateful for snowstorms and weeds.


Photos by NB Hunter. 15March2017. ©All Rights Reserved.


11 thoughts on “Birds in a Blizzard: Snow Buntings

  1. These are such stunning photos against the white background. Every detail stands out crisply. Guessing with blizzard conditions this is a ‘white-out’? Wondering how you handle extreme conditions to pull off the magical scenes? Looking forward to reading your forthcoming posts.

    • Hi Liz. Thanks. Strategy #1: I just returned from a swamp, where I sat for an hour or so in snow camouflage hoping to catch a duck off guard. The target site was a small stream about 100 feet away, my limit for a quality image for a bird that size. Sure enough, a drake Wood Duck drifted through and I got him coming and going (a future post). Strategy #2: I was a wimp during and immediately after the blizzard – too cold and too much snow in the air for me and the camera. I did a lot of shooting from my truck, stopped at strategic locations. The white background in the Snow Bunting pics is mostly a 30 inch+ snow cover from the storm. When a true white-out occurs, AF goes crazy and all can be lost, especially when subjects are distant. I have a good white-out shot in a future post (my Blizzard series!) .

  2. Great pictures. Always on the look out for snow buntings in the winter but I know I’ll never see them as well as in your photos, and warmer viewing. Thank You.
    Happy Spring!

    • Thanks Carol. I know a lot of people don’t have a chance to see these birds so I feel like I’m contributing to the greater good! Must admit to not thinking much about spring just yet. I was photographing ducks in a backdrop of a foot of snow today and tomorrow morning will be in the teens…..Enjoy whatever tomorrow brings.

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