Bird Watcher's General Store

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Snow Buntings

Dear Bird Folks,

Last week while walking on First Encounter Beach in Eastham, a flock of small white birds flew past me. There may have been other colors on them too, but all I could make out as they flashed past was white. Any idea what they were.

Tony, Eastham


Hi Tony

We haven’t played “Name That Bird” in months. I’ve missed it. Okay, let’s look at the clues. All white, in a group on the beach in winter time. Sounds like a family of Scandinavians to me. But if I have to limit my guesses to just birds, I would have to say you saw a flock of snow buntings.

Although not all white, snow buntings sure flash a lot of white when they fly. About the size of a large sparrow, buntings breed in the high Arctic and Greenland. They come to Cape Cod in the winter to take advantage of those off-season rates and to eat weed seeds and any available crustaceans that they find on the outer beaches and dunes. Seeing a flock of snow buntings is the reward that we get for bundling up and taking a stroll on our peaceful, but often bitter cold, winter beaches. However, we had better not take any more walks outside for a while. There are only three weeks left of pregame shows before Super Bowl XXXV, and it would be a shame to miss any of them.