Snow buntings in Spitsbergen


Singing male snow bunting, Spitsbergen, 7 June 2013

This photo shows a male snow bunting singing, to the west of Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen.

After our journey on 2 June, 3 June is our first full day in Svalbard. Then, and later, we often saw snow buntings, basically the only songbirds of this Arctic archipelago.

This is a video of a children’s choir, singing Daar was een sneeuwwit vogeltje, an old Dutch song. Sixteenth century?

The song’s title is, translated, There was a little snow-white bird.

The lyrics are about a person in love asking a little white bird to bring a letter to the beloved.

The bird does so, flying across the fence of the beloved’s house. But the reply to the letter is that the beloved person already married someone else half a year ago.

Only one Dutch small bird species can be called, almost, snow-white: snow buntings (especially males). They winter in the Netherlands; see photo here.

They nest in the sub-Arctic and Arctic. Including Spitsbergen. Including Longyearbyen, the capital village.

This video is about snow buntings.

As winter approaches, snow buntings migrate to the south. According to the book Birds and Mammals of Svalbard, page 179, based on ringed birds research, Svalbard buntings go to “the Russian steppes north of the Caspian Sea and in Kazakhstan“.

28 thoughts on “Snow buntings in Spitsbergen

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