Snow Buntings Visit Baltimore

Last Updated on May 2, 2020 by NWBirdTop

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Maryland birders have been excited about Snow Buntings for the past week or so. They are not frequent visitors to our area, so when four Snow Buntings were spotted along the North Point State Park pier, local birders began visiting the park in a steady stream to get a look.

North Point State Park is east of Baltimore. It has a $3 cash entrance fee, something we neglected to check on ahead of time. Note to self: Tuck a few dollars into the birding bag to avoid last minute trips to find an ATM! Jim and I visited the park last Saturday where we saw three of the four. 

North Point’s Pier

The pier stretches out from the park into the Chesapeake Bay. It is a long walkway out into the water, with grass and mesh along the path edges and a border of rocks sloping down to the water’s edges along it.

Snow Buntings on the Pier
Snow Buntings on the Pier

We found the first Snow Bunting in the grass and mesh along the right side of the pier just before it widens at the end. The other two were in the grass and mesh along in the wide circular area at the end. We didn’t see the fourth, but it may have been somewhere in the rocks, as people have seen them there as well.

Snow Buntings Appearance

These are lovely little birds. Male Snow Buntings normally look only black and white. But in the winter even the males show shades of brown like the females even though they only molt once a year. All About Birds explains:

“Although breeding and nonbreeding males look quite different, the Snow Bunting has only one molt each year and no true ‘Alternate Plumage.’ After the molt in the late summer, the male looks brownish with a brown and black striped back. Underneath the colored feather tips, the back feathers are pure black and the body feathers all are white. The male wears off all of the feather tips by actively rubbing them on snow, and he is immaculate white and jet black by the time breeding begins.”

The Snow Buntings Blended in With the Grass
The Snow Buntings Blended in With the Grass

Snow Buntings in The Grass

At the pier, the three birds we saw were fairly still. For the half hour or so that we were nearby, they barely moved a few inches. Their coloring and relative stillness let them blend into the grassy area, making them surprisingly difficult to see at first.

While aware of birders coming to see them and take pictures, they didn’t seem the least bit bothered by people even when just five feet away. As people came and went, they just continued to eat seeds from the dried grass.

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Snow Buntings Are Arctic Birds

Snow Buntings are arctic birds that winter in Canada and the northern United States. While they occasionally show up in Maryland in the winter, they are not common here.

We would never had known they were around if we weren’t part of a group of Maryland birders on Facebook. Usually you can count on someone there to alert fellow local birders of interesting birds in the area. They will often post pictures of them as well. These are fun to see, even if you can’t get out to see the birds yourself. It’s worth seeking out online groups like this in your area.

Nancie

Learn More About Snow Buntings

To learn more about Snow Buntings, check out the Snow Bunting page on All About Birds.

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