Continuous baiting for several weeks, cold temperatures and snow have finally paid off. I arrived early and had the traps set by 7:15. Even in the early morning mirk the birds had beat me to the site – 3 Snow Buntings flew up from the remaining corn when I arrived. And as I was setting out the traps and corn they piled in. My 7:30 note says: “Birds started to arrive as I was setting out traps: first 6, then 20, then 35, now 80…and the traps are full!” It was “ring and fling” for the first 2 hours: did 32 on the first; 25 on the 2nd; 19 on the 3rd. On the day we banded 119 birds: 114 Snow Buntings, 5 Horned Larks.
The sex ratio today was even more skewed than yesterday. Female:male ratio was 5:1. But in the first group of 32 only 1 bird was a male. More drifted in later…obviously.
Handling Snow Buntings is pretty interesting as these birds have the capacity to ingest large amounts of corn/seed which they hold in a large throat patch which sometimes can encircle their neck. This allows them to take full advantage of a windfall. I suspect it’s also a good mechanism for seeing them through the night as they can digest the material slowly over time and not have to draw on fat reserves to keep warm.