Spring Snow Bunting Shows Off at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto ON

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.

Photo of Snow Bunting Col Sam Smith Pk Toronto March on NaturalCrooksDotCom

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!

Photo of Snow Bunting Toronto ON March on NaturalCrooksDotCom

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.

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2 thoughts on “Spring Snow Bunting Shows Off at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto ON

  1. We live on a farm north of Field in Ontario and have a flock of roughly two hundred who visit every year. I was looking on the net (that’s how I found this page) to see when the females would leave. Our flock has dwindled to roughly fifty over the last couple of weeks but I see the females are still here and this is why the flock has grown smaller.
    This week I was able to positively identify a Northern Harrier. This bird has been around all winter and finally came close enough for me to see the black wingtips and owlish face!
    Exciting times!

    • Lucky you to see such a large flock! The only thing we seem to have large flocks of locally is Canada geese and ring billed gulls.

      Harriers are great birds. We used to see them over the marshes around Kingston. The white rump patch is a good field mark, too. Apparently they are on a bit of a decline, so you may want to report yours to eBird.org if you haven’t already.

      Happy birding!

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