Sunday, 2 December 2012

1st winter female 'insulae' Snow Bunting - Llandudno

Following the Holyhead Snow Bunting last week that were almost certainly of the 'nivalis' race, here's a rather classic 'insulae' bird from Llandudno's West Shore that is currently present.

The nominate race 'nivalis'. breeds from Canada and Greenland via Scotland to Scandinavia and NW Russia. The second race is 'insulae' which breeds in Iceland (and has been cited as a perhaps rather unlikely candidate for a split). The rarest race to appear in Britain is the NE Russian and Siberian race 'vlasowae'.
Most of our birds here in North Wales seem to be Icelandic 'insulae' birds. Mike Young-Powell has an excellent article which goes into more depth about the matter here:-

From the pics below, the main distinguishing features needed to separate the two races can be seen:-
  • frostiness to the mantle and back
  • base colour of the rump
  • colour of 9th primary
While ageing can be noted by:-
  • amount of contrast in the tertials
  • shape of tail feathers
While sex is usually noted by amount of white in the wing and especially the primary coverts. Males appear much whiter overall.

Compare this bird with the Holyhead 'nivalis' birds in Steve's post here -


  1. Fascinating! Thanks Marc.

  2. The first pics of the Kinmel Bay birds look like nivalis, going off the pale mantle? I admit i've not feather fiddled any more than that though..
    Cheers, Mike.