Snow bunting

Snow Bunting

©David Martin

Snow Bunting

©Amy Lewis

Snow Bunting

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Snow bunting

Scientific name: Plectrophenax nivalis
Only a few pairs of snow bunting breed here, so look out for this striking black-and-white bird in winter around Scotland, the North West and the East coast of England.

Species information


Length: 16cm
Wingspan: 35cm
Weight: 35-42g
Average lifespan: 3 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The snow bunting is a sparrow-sized bird that breeds in the Arctic (from Scandinavia to Canada), and winters in the UK, mainly around the coast. There are also some resident snow buntings in the UK, which breed in Scotland. Snow buntings build their nests in rock crevices on bare mountain slopes or rocky shores and lay four to six eggs.

How to identify

Black and white during the summer, snow buntings become buffy and streaky in the winter. However, when they fly, snow buntings still look black and white, with white patches on the wings and black wingtips.


Breeds in small numbers in the Scottish Highlands. Winters around the coasts of northern and eastern UK.

Did you know?

There are about 60 pairs of resident snow buntings that breed in Scotland. In winter, they are joined by 10-15,000 visiting birds.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.