Post #61 of 100

We are now in the final phase of  the countdown to January 4th and the 100th Anniversary of BPQ. In the days ahead you can expect lots of anecdotes from the annals of bird conservation history!  The first installment of Five Fast Facts features the Snow Bunting, a bird whose protection was dear to the heart of one of BPQ’s founding members.

The Bird Conservation History Files: 5 Fast Facts about the Snow Bunting

#1. Also known as the “sun bunting” or the “sun flake,” the Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is a hardy passerine of the  High Arctic. During the winter, Buntings migrate to the temperate zones of Canada, the US, northern Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and central Asia.

#2. It was not originally one of the birds included in the Migratory Birds Convention of 1916. The Snow Bunting was unfortunately the victim of public misconception; it was not considered migratory nor beneficial to agriculture, so was not included among the first birds protected under the treaty.

#3. Snow Bunting was once a delicacy and trapping the bird for food was part of a longstanding culinary tradition among some Quebec farmers. Given its size, one bird only provided two morsels of meat, which meant that two dozen birds per person were required for a meal. 

#4. Mrs. Dyer, one of BPQ’s founding members and  the organization’s first Correspondence Secretary, apparently had a soft spot for the Bunting and began a letter writing campaign to various governmental contacts on their behalf in 1919. She nearly succeeded but unfortunately one of the key players and advocates on the government level died suddenly and the hope of passing legislation died with him for several decades.

#5. Legislative protection for the Snow Bunting only came in 1963 after an article in April of that year published by the Montreal Gazette created public outrage. It detailed the methods used by one farm family to harvest the birds, which ranged from 300 to 2400 dozen per day according to the migration cycle. The birds were sold at markets in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières for $1.50/dozen at peak times. In June the Quebec Government placed the Snow Bunting on the protected list.