London Zoo: Snow birds around the world on all seven continents – Arizona Daily Sun


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Dark-eyed Juncos are the original snowbirds, so called because they travel south from high-latitude evergreen forests to spend the winter where many people see them in their yard and at their feeders — frequently about the time of the first snowfall. So, it is these sparrows, and not people escaping cold weather to spend the winter months in sunny climates, who are the source of this name. It seems snow birds are everywhere, as birds whose names include this word live on all seven continents.
Africa. The range of the Snowy-crowned Robin-chat includes nearly 30 countries in Western and Central Africa. They live in tropical and subtropical forests, woodlands, thickets, gardens, and savannahs. The songs males sing to attract females are a fast string of mimicry of other bird species with variations, and sometimes powerful whistles added in.
Antarctica. The only land bird native to this continent is the Snowy Sheathbill. This bird will not set down on water, but will hitch rides on passing ships. Snowy Sheathbills have a truly disturbing diet, eating carrion, feces, human waste, regurgitated krill meant for penguin chicks, and tapeworms from the intestines of penguins.
Asia. The steep ridgelines of Central and Southern Asia are the native habitat of the Himalayan Snowcock. They live high above the treeline at altitudes of 4,000-5,000 meters, though during severe winters they may descend as low as 2,400 meters. That’s still above the 2,100-meter altitude here in the mountains of Flagstaff. In the film The Big Year, the birds Steve Martin and Jack Black saw during their harrowing helicopter ride were Himalayan Snowcocks.
Europe. The nomadic Snowy Owl rarely breeds in the same place or with the same mate. Their calls have more of a barking quality than the hooting usually associated with owls. Harry Potter’s owl Hedwig was a Snowy Owl, and though female, the actors portraying her were almost completely white, and therefore clearly male.
North America. Living primarily in North America, the Snow Goose breeds on the Arctic tundra and winters further south on this continent in fields, lakes, and marshes. Snow Geese form large flocks containing thousands of birds, including other species of geese.
Oceania. The remoteness of their inaccessible mountain habitat offers protection to the Snow Mountain Quail. They live only in the alpine grasslands of the Snow and Star Mountains, which are the highest parts of Western New Guinea. The lack of human interference also means very little scientific research has been conducted on them. Estimates of its population and knowledge of its breeding patterns remain unknown.
South America. The Snow-capped Manakin lives in the Amazon Basin in Brazil and parts of Bolivia. It is found in lowland forests and is most frequently seen in fruiting trees. Hybrid bird species are rare but this species and the Opal-crowned Manakin are the parent species whose hybridization resulted in the Golden-crowned Manakin.
There are nearly 50 birds with “snow” in their name. With their presence on every continent, snow birds are, in one sense, in everybody’s back yard.
Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and an author of six books on canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.

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