Yesterday, Corey posted that winter had finally gotten to New York, and he went on to show off with a series of mouth-watering winter birds. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t so excited about the junco, but the owl, hawk and crossbill really got the juices going. And a Glaucous Gull is always a treat.

But when I think of snow birds, I think of slightly different set of birdies.

I think of flocks of incredibly awesome Snow Finches (Montifringilla nivalis). Following Corey’s logic about a “hyperboreus” gull, if we are talking about snow birds, then something with “nivalis” has got to count just as much. The White-winged Snowfinch is a bird that I normally have to work really hard to see in summer, but I have a few spots in Tirol in winter where I know I have a more than a decent chance finding them – real gems. And the coolest thing: I have never seen one anywhere near the tree line. They spend their entire lives up in the high altitude snow zone.

Bird number two on my snow bird list has got to be the Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis). Yup, another “nivalis” and one of the hardiest land birds on the planet. Just check out those cute little chestnut patches on the cheeks:

Despite the Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) running away as soon as the winter snows start to hit, just the fact that they love the high mountains puts them in to my snow bird category. And I love them. Oh, and they have a really kooky sex life.

Here in the Alps, we get invasions of Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) in winter; particularly when the winter has been harsh in northern and eastern Europe. Now, they might not be as exotic as the Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) that sometimes make an appearance, but they are still fantastic.

Now, I am not quite sure that my snow birds are any more snow birds than Corey’s snow birds, but they are at least mine. And I like them.

Happy birding,

Dale Forbes

Written by Dale Forbes
Dale grew up in the forests and savannas of South Africa, developing a love for nature from a young age. After studying Zoology and Wildlife Science, he moved to Central America to continue his work in conservation biology. He is a member of BirdLife International’s Advisory Board and is Swarovski Optik’s Head of Strategic Business Development.