|Conservation status||Abundant and widespread. Most of breeding range is remote from the effects of human activity.|
|Family||Longspurs and Snow Buntings|
|Habitat||In summer, tundra; in winter, fields, prairies. Breeds in various kinds of treeless Arctic habitats, from open wet tundra and sedge meadows to drier upland tundra. Winters in open country including shortgrass prairie, overgrazed pastures, stubble fields, plowed fields, lake shores, and similar areas.|
Forages by walking on ground, searching methodically for food. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks; sometimes feeds in association with Horned Larks in winter.
4-6, sometimes 3-7. Greenish white to pale gray-green, marked with brown and black. Incubation is by female only, about 12-13 days. Male sometimes feeds female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-10 days after hatching. Adults may split up the fledglings, each parent caring for only part of brood. 1 brood per year.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-10 days after hatching. Adults may split up the fledglings, each parent caring for only part of brood. 1 brood per year.
Mostly seeds and insects. Seeds make up about half of diet of adults in summer, and great majority of diet in winter; included are seeds of grasses, weeds, and sedges, also waste grain in winter. Also eats many insects in summer, including crane flies, other flies, beetles, caterpillars, true bugs, and others, as well as spiders. Young are fed mostly insects.
Males arrive before females on the nesting grounds and establish territories with flight-song displays: flying up from ground to 30' or higher, then gliding down while singing. In courtship on ground, male may sing while running about with wings drooped, bill pointed up. In the short Arctic summer, with little time available, courtship and pairing are accomplished quickly, and females may begin nest-building within days after they arrive. Nest site is on ground, tucked into shallow depression in moss or other tundra vegetation. Nest (built by female) is cup of grass, sometimes with moss added, lined with fine grass and often with feathers.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates in flocks. Tends to migrate late in fall and early in spring; in most areas south of Canada, peak passage is in November and March.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsRattling call. Flight song is sweet and bubbling.
Learn more about this sound collection.