Photo: Bob Steele/Vireo

Chestnut-collared Longspur

Calcarius ornatus

Male Chestnut-collared Longspurs can be found in summer singing their flight-songs over the northern prairies. In winter, flocks invade the grasslands of the Southwest. They can be hard to see well on the ground, flushing when a birder approaches, to swirl away over the fields with soft musical callnotes; they are more easily observed when they come to drink at ponds.
Conservation status Has disappeared from some former nesting areas, but still fairly widespread and common.
Family Longspurs and Snow Buntings
Habitat Plains, prairies. Breeds in the general region of shortgrass prairie, but in areas of slightly longer grass and scattered taller weeds. Winters in shortgrass prairies and fields. Overlaps broadly in range with McCown's Longspur, but tends to occur in areas with taller and denser grass.
Male Chestnut-collared Longspurs can be found in summer singing their flight-songs over the northern prairies. In winter, flocks invade the grasslands of the Southwest. They can be hard to see well on the ground, flushing when a birder approaches, to swirl away over the fields with soft musical callnotes; they are more easily observed when they come to drink at ponds.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult male, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages while running and walking on ground, picking up items from soil or from plants. After flushing insects from ground, sometimes will chase them, even in short flights.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3, rarely 6. Whitish, marked with brown, black, purple. Incubation is by female only, about 10-13 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching; can fly well by a few days later. 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching; can fly well by a few days later. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds and insects. Seeds may make up close to half of summer diet of adults, and great majority of winter diet; included are seeds of weeds and grasses. Also feeds on many insects in summer, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and others, as well as spiders. Young are fed mostly insects.


Nesting

To defend nesting territory, male performs flight-song display, fluttering up about 20', flying in undulating circles while singing, then fluttering down again. Also often sings from a raised perch. Nest site is on ground, often at base of grass clump or weed, or next to dried cow manure or other object. Placed in shallow depression, either a natural hollow or one scraped out by bird, so that rim of nest is about level with ground. Female builds nest, a shallow cup of grass, lined with finer grass and sometimes with rootlets, feathers, or animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks. Occurs in small numbers west to the Pacific Coast and as an accidental stray east to the Atlantic Coast.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks. Occurs in small numbers west to the Pacific Coast and as an accidental stray east to the Atlantic Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft, sweet, and tumbling, somewhat like that of the Western Meadowlark; also a hard ji-jiv in flight.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
New World Sparrows Perching Birds

Chestnut-collared Longspur

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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