Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis


Taxonomic note

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S. and Perrins, C.M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Red list criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
- - -

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2016 Least Concern
2012 Least Concern
2009 Least Concern
2008 Least Concern
2004 Least Concern
2000 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1994 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1988 Lower Risk/Least Concern
Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency Does not normally occur in forest
Land mass type Average mass 42 g

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 43,400,000 medium
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 61,700,000 medium
Number of locations -
Severely Fragmented -
Population and trend
Value Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
No. of mature individuals poor estimated 2009
Population trend Decreasing estimated -
Decline (3 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (5 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation future) - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation past and future) - - -
Number of subpopulations - - -
Percentage in largest subpopulation - - -
Generation length (yrs) 3.9 - - -

Population justification: The global population is estimated to number > c.40,000,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2004). The European population is estimated at 1,230,000-2,310,000 pairs, which equates to 2,470,000-4,630,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 12,350,000-23,150,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification: This species has undergone a large and statistically significant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (-63.6% decline over 40 years, equating to a -22.3% decline per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). The European population trend is unknown (BirdLife International 2015).

Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Occurrence status Presence Resident Breeding Non-breeding Passage
Algeria V Extant
Austria N Extant Yes
Bahamas N Extant
Belarus N Extant Yes
Belgium N Extant Yes
Bermuda (to UK) N Extant
Bosnia and Herzegovina V Extant
Bulgaria N Extant Yes
Canada N Extant Yes
China (mainland) N Extant
Croatia V Extant
Czechia N Extant Yes
Denmark N Extant Yes Yes
Estonia N Extant Yes
Faroe Islands (to Denmark) N Extant Yes
Finland N Extant Yes Yes
France N Extant Yes
Germany N Extant Yes Yes
Greece V Extant
Greenland (to Denmark) N Extant Yes
Hungary N Extant Yes
Iceland N Extant Yes
Ireland N Extant
Italy N Extant Yes
Japan N Extant
Kazakhstan N Extant
Latvia N Extant Yes
Lithuania N Extant Yes
Luxembourg V Extant
Malta V Extant
Mongolia V Extant
Montenegro V Extant
Morocco V Extant
Netherlands N Extant Yes
North Korea V Extant
Norway N Extant Yes
Poland N Extant Yes Yes
Portugal N Extant Yes
Romania N Extant Yes
Russia N Extant Yes Yes
Russia (Asian) N Extant Yes
Russia (Central Asian) N Extant Yes
Russia (European) N Extant Yes
Serbia V Extant
Slovakia N Extant Yes
Slovenia N Extant Yes
South Korea N Extant
Spain N Extant Yes
St Pierre and Miquelon (to France) N Extant Yes Yes
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) N Extant Yes
Sweden N Extant Yes
Switzerland N Extant
Turkey V Extant
Turks and Caicos Islands (to UK) N Extant
Ukraine N Extant Yes
United Kingdom N Extant Yes
USA N Extant Yes

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name
Faroe Islands (to Denmark) Fugloy
Sweden Bay of Skälder
Poland Vistula river mouth
Poland Pisz forest
Finland Rauma and Luvia archipelagos
Finland Hanko western archipelago
Finland Artjärvi wetlands
Finland Kangasala wetlands
Finland Maaninka wetlands
Finland Pitkäranta
Finland Värtsilä valley
Finland Alajoki
Finland Lålby fields
Finland Lapväärti wetlands
Finland Kristiinankaupunki southern archipelago
Finland Sundominlahti Bay and Söderfjärden
Finland Kevo
Finland Värriö-Tuntsa
Finland Pallas and Ylläs fjelds
Finland Saariselkä and Koilliskaira
Finland Lemmenjoki-Hammastunturi-Pulju
Finland Käsivarsi fjelds
Russia (European) Lapland Biosphere Reserve
Ukraine Lyman lake
France Baie du Mont Saint Michel et Ile des Landes
United Kingdom Ben Alder
United Kingdom Cairngorms
United Kingdom Glen Affric to Strathconon
United Kingdom Creag Meagaidh
United Kingdom East Sanday
United Kingdom North Mainland Coast
United Kingdom North Ronaldsay Coast
United Kingdom South Westray Coast
United Kingdom South-eastern Stronsay
United Kingdom Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch
Norway Varangerfjord
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Bjørnøya (Bear Island)
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Inner parts of Kongsfjorden
Germany Hellwegbörde
Germany Wagbach lowlands
Germany Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park
Russia (Central Asian) Lower Yuribey
Russia (Central Asian) Upper and Middle Yuribey
Canada Churchill and Vicinity
Canada Markham Bay Eider Colony
Canada Netitishi Point
Canada Shallow Bay, Big Slough and Swan Lake
Sweden Middagsfjället – Dörrshöjden
Finland Lätäseno and Jietajoki mires
Finland Maltio fjelds
Finland Oulu region wetlands
Norway Dovrefjell
Norway Varanger Peninsula
Norway Slettnes
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Adventdalen & Adventfjorden
Norway Hardangervidda
Norway Reisa
Norway Sirbma fields
Kazakhstan Sorbulak Lake System

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Grassland Tundra major non-breeding
Grassland Tundra major breeding
Marine Coastal/Supratidal Sea Cliffs and Rocky Offshore Islands suitable breeding
Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks) suitable non-breeding
Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks) suitable breeding
Altitude   Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Climate change & severe weather Habitat shifting & alteration Timing Scope Severity Impact
Future Whole (>90%) Unknown Unknown
Indirect ecosystem effects, Ecosystem degradation

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Plectrophenax nivalis. Downloaded from on 20/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/03/2023.