WatchList Species Account for McKay’s Bunting
(Plectrophenax hyperboreus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


McKay's Bunting

Photo: Greg Homel, Natural
Images Productions

McKay’s Bunting breeds on Hall and St. Matthew islands in the Bering Sea where its close congener, the Snow Bunting, does not occur. Ocassionally it nests on two other Bering Sea islands, St. Lawrence and St. Paul. In the winter it is found on the western Alaska coast of the Bering Sea and on the coast of the Alaskan Peninsula.


The species occurs in mixed flocks during migration and winter with Snow Bunting. Limited hybridization is recorded between the two species on St. Lawrence Island, where the Snow Bunting is a common breeder.


McKay's Bunting nests on vegetated and rocky tundra, most commonly on the coastal lowlands of its breeding islands. In winter it is found on coastal marshes, shingle beaches, and agricultural fields with exposed vegetation.


The total breeding area on Hall and St Matthew Islands is only about 115 square miles, and the maximum population is about 2,800 individuals; the true number could certainly be smaller, as not all habitat on the two islands is suitable.


With its small numbers and restricted range, the McKay's Bunting could easily be decimated by introduced rats, weasels or foxes.