Martin Kviesgaard lives on the west coast of Greenland and he has become pretty adept at “recovering” banded Snow Buntings….with his camera. He’s managed to catch the number for a number of birds (one of them mine!). But what’s most interesting about his most recent recovery is the fact that the bird was at a feeder in Nuuk, Greenland on February 6th of this year! All his previous sightings had been of birds that had been banded in southern Quebec and Ontario during the Winter and it was commonly thought that all Snow Buntings made the long journey to escape nasty Arctic conditions. This changes things.
The bird was originally banded as a young male in the Montreal area on January 20th, 2020. This year, however, it decided not to make the long journey (the distance between the banding site and Nuuk is 2,948 km – it sits at 64 degrees N) but stay on the southwest coast of Greenland putting it MUCH closer to its breeding area. This makes a lot of sense if the weather is ok. I looked it up and the temperatures for December, January and February in Nuuk are similar to ours (-3/-8, -4/-10, -4/-10 respectively). The key would then be a food supply. Evidently 100-200 can be found in Nuuk through the Winter and small flocks are found further south along the coast. They have taken to going to feeders – where Martin is able to photograph them.
But what a change for this bird. I wonder what was the deciding factor(s) that induced it to forgo the long migration and stick to local feeders?