Louise Laurin at the Banding Office had lots of presents for me in her last notification of recoveries of birds we’d banded recently…..as if 2 Northern Saw-whet Owls weren’t enough!
But this one takes the cake! At an approximate 3,500 kilometers away it is the most distant recovery of a bird we’ve banded at Ruthven Park. (The previous record was held by an American Goldfinch found just outside New Orleans.) The Snow Bunting was found dead in Saattut, a small settlement on a little island off the east coast of Greenland. It had been banded on March 3rd, 2014 and recovered on July 4th, 2015. At the time of banding we had aged it as a male in its second year; i.e., it had hatched in the Summer of 2013. So it would have flown between southern Ontario and Greenland twice in its lifetime – what a feat!!
I would love to know the route. Due to a good number recoveries of banded southern Ontario birds in the Spring by Yann Rochepault and his colleagues in the Magpie/Riviere-St. Jean area of the St. Lawrence’s north shore, I think it is safe to assume that when ‘our’ birds leave in March they head along the St. Lawrence, possibly all the way to the Atlantic at the river’s mouth…..but not necessarily. Perhaps they cross Labrador before that. Once they leave Yann’s area they pretty well fall off the radar.
At some point they have to cross the North Atlantic to get to Greenland. The shortest water crossing would be from Cape Dyer on Baffin Island due east across the Davis Strait to Greenland. That would require going a long way due north and then east. Perhaps they fly diagonally NE from Labrador or northern Newfoundland to get there. Birds trapped in northern Newfoundland in the Spring have weighed over 60 grams – almost double their “fat-free” weight; easily enough energy for a long non-stop flight (in favourable conditions).
Wouldn’t it be neat to fit breeding Snow Buntings in Saattut with geolocators so we can see the exact route they take!?
[Note: all images were downloaded from Googe Images. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to check out maps and pictures of Saattut on Google – to see where ‘our’ birds spend their Summers.]