Recently I went on a nature walk with the Toronto Field Naturalists to Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto. The park is located along the shores of Lake Ontario at the foot of Kipling Avenue. We were looking for anything with two wings or four feet and enjoying a glorious sunny morning (for once!). To the astonishment of many in our group, a single snow bunting suddenly appeared amongst us.
It hunted insects, and reportedly found at least one, and seeds within feet of us. First it searched among the long grasses and weeds. Then it flew onto the tumble of rocks that protects the shoreline from erosion.
Is It Unusual To See Solo Snow Buntings?
One of the group remarked that it’s unusual to see snow buntings alone. Apparently they are a flock bird. We looked closely at it, both at the time and later at the photos, but there’s nothing obviously wrong with this bird. (The Wood Duck at LaSalle, in contrast, has a damaged left eye.)
It’s possible it was only briefly separated from its comrades. It disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Hopefully it found its friends again.
How Far North Do Snow Buntings Go?
I knew that these somewhat largish-sparrow-sized birds don’t spend the summers here. My Peterson’s Field Guidesurprised me though with the information that these little birds nest mostly in the high Arctic islands. It’s got a long flight ahead of it!
In fact, Lake Ontario is almost as far south as snow buntings ever wander. I guess compared to Ellesmere Island, Toronto seems like the Caribbean in even in winter.
When Do Snow Buntings Leave Lake Ontario?
AllAboutBirds.org, the Cornell University website, says the males usually return to the Arctic in early April. The females, it says, wait another 4-6 weeks to arrive. Sounds sensible to me!
We were birding in the second week of March which means this little one might be leaving any day soon.
Have you seen Snow Buntings on your rambles? Please share your experiences with a comment.