Even with the warmer than normal October weather, the last of our local snow buntings departed on time. The last snow buntings have been departing around 10-13th of October for several years now, and the last five were seen on the afternoon of the 9th this year.
Snow Bunting in bright fall plumage.
My last banded Snow Bunting just before leaving for the winter.
That left the two Dark-eyed Junco’s (Slate-colored sub-species) coming into the feeder. They showed up in early October hungry and spent lots of time at the feeder bulking up to continue their migration south. The juncos departed two days after the snow buntings, having built up their reserves to feel ready to continue on.
Dark-eyed Junco (sub-species Slate-colored Junco)
It was fun watching the juvenile snow buntings learn to land in the first snow that fell in late September. At first they weren’t sure about landing in the white stuff. They would hover and slowly letting their feet sink into the snow, acting like they thought they were going to get stuck, like happens when they misjudged earlier in the summer when they landed in water. After a few days they were just plopping right down and letting their body stop them from sinking more, like a big snowshoe. Once landed they could move about on the snow without sinking in, as they moved about in the yard feeding on the grass seed heads that were sticking above the snow.
Snow Bunting napping during October snow squall.
Male Snow Bunting in bright spring plumage, showing contrast from when they arrive and then depart in the fall.