Buntings and New World Sparrows (Emberizidae)

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) - HBW 16, p. 505

French: Plectrophane des neiges German: Schneeammer Spanish: Escribano Nival

Taxonomy: Emberiza nivalis Linnaeus, 1758, Lapland.
Molecular studies indicate that genus is closely related to Calcarius, and also appears to be a sister-taxon to Rhynchophanes; has been suggested that these three genera be placed in a separate family, Calcariidae. Often considered conspecific with P. hyperboreus, but juvenile plumages differ; also, interbreeding between the two is minimal, latter arriving on restricted breeding grounds earlier and apparently occupying most/all of suitable breeding sites. Geographical variation not well understood and complicated by high degree of individual variation; ranges listed below .. View all taxonomy...

Taxonomy: Emberiza nivalis Linnaeus, 1758, Lapland.
Molecular studies indicate that genus is closely related to Calcarius, and also appears to be a sister-taxon to Rhynchophanes; has been suggested that these three genera be placed in a separate family, Calcariidae. Often considered conspecific with P. hyperboreus, but juvenile plumages differ; also, interbreeding between the two is minimal, latter arriving on restricted breeding grounds earlier and apparently occupying most/all of suitable breeding sites. Geographical variation not well understood and complicated by high degree of individual variation; ranges listed below tentative, and review desirable. Nominate race intergrades with townsendi in E Aleutian Is. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • nivalis (Linnaeus, 1758) - breeds in N North America from St Lawrence I and coast of Alaska (including E Aleutian Is) E across N Canada (S to N Yukon, NW Mackenzie, C Northwest Territories, C Nunavut, Southampton I, Belcher Is, N Quebec and N Labrador) to coasts of Greenland, and N Scotland, Svalbard, and mountains of W & N Fennoscandia E to Kola Peninsula; non-breeding from SW Alaska and S Canada (NW British Columbia E to Manitoba, Ontario, S Labrador and Newfoundland) S in USA to NW California, Utah, N New Mexico, Kansas, Ohio and Virginia (occasionally farther S on Atlantic coast) and, in Palearctic, British Is and N France E to S Scandinavia, Germany, Poland and S European Russia (occasionally S to Mediterranean and E to Asia Minor).
  • insulae Salomonsen, 1931 - Iceland, possibly also N Scotland; non-breeding occasionally S to Faeroe Is and Shetland Is.
  • vlasowae Portenko, 1937 - breeds NE European Russia E through Siberia (including Severnaya Zemlya, New Siberian Is and Wrangel I) to Bering Strait and S to N Shelekhova Gulf and E Kamchatka; non-breeding in C & E Asia S to N Caspian region, Altai, Mongolia, Transbaikalia, NE China, Sakhalin I, Kuril Is, occasionally to N Japan (Hokkaido) and Korea.
  • townsendi Ridgway, 1887 - Commander Is, Pribilofs, and Aleutian Is.