After scaling some of the nation's highest peaks, scientists have revealed the size of Britain's breeding population of Snow Buntings for the first time.

Globally, Snow Bunting has a circumpolar distribution, breeding commonly from Scandinavia to Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

Weighing no more than a golf ball, it is a familiar sight around Britain's coasts in the winter months, but a small breeding population can also be found on the highest peaks of Scotland.

During June 2011, a team of scientists and volunteers led by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage scaled mountains in the Cairngorms and the Highlands, such as Ben Nevis and Ben Alder, to listen out for singing males.

The survey involved searching 58 sites, covering an impressive 12,000 ha – the equivalent of more than 14,800 football pitches – and the results, published this month in the journal Bird Study, estimate Britain's breeding population of Snow Buntings at 60 pairs.

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