Family Longspurs (Calcariidae)

Least Concern

McKay's Bunting (Plectrophenax hyperboreus)


French: Plectrophane blanc German: Beringschneeammer Spanish: Escribano de McKay

Plectrophenax hyperboreus


, 1884,

St Michael Island, south shore of Norton Sound, Alaska, USA


See comments under P. nivalis. Monotypic.


Islands of Bering Sea, mainly on Hall I and St Matthew I, rarely St Paul (Pribilofs) and St Lawrence I; non-breeding on coast of W & SW Alaska, with a few records from Chukotskiy Peninsula (extreme NE Russia)#R.

Descriptive notes

15–19 cm; c. 38–62 g. A large bunting with large bill and relatively short, notched tail. Male breeding is entirely white, except for partly black tertials, tips... read more


Song a low warbling; calls include soft rattle and whistled descending “cheew”; apparently very... read more


Breeds on beaches and rocky talus slopes, and on shores of tundra pools; sea-level to 490 m. In... read more

Food and feeding

Little known. Probably eats seeds in winter, and insects and other invertebrates when available. Generally forages on or near ground or low... read more


Pair formation occurs during May, nest-building and laying by late Jun, young hatch by start of Jul (sometimes end of Jun), and fledglings... read more


Migratory; winters mainly in W & SW Alaska. Leaves breeding grounds by early Oct, heads E and... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Classified as “Rare” in the USA (Yellow WatchList priority species for conservation). Restricted-range species: present... read more

Recommended citation

Rising, J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2019). McKay's Bunting (Plectrophenax hyperboreus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 March 2019).