|Conservation status||Numbers probably stable. Most of breeding range is remote from human disturbance.|
|Family||Longspurs and Snow Buntings|
|Habitat||Prairies, fields, airports; in summer, tundra. Breeds along treeline in the North, where stunted forest gives way to tundra, mainly in areas of grassy or sedgy tundra with scattered low shrubs and short conifers. Winters on shortgrass plains, heavily grazed pastures, airport fields.|
Does all its foraging while walking or running on the ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.
4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 1-6. Pale tan to pale green, marked with lavender and dark brown. Incubation is by female only, 11-13 days. Young: Fed by female and by one or more males. Young leave the nest about 7-9 days after hatching, unable to fly well for about another week. 1 brood per year.
Fed by female and by one or more males. Young leave the nest about 7-9 days after hatching, unable to fly well for about another week. 1 brood per year.
Mostly seeds and insects. Diet is mainly seeds for much of year, especially in winter, including seeds of weeds and grasses, also waste grain. Also eats insects, and these become major part of diet during breeding season; included are caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, moths, damselflies, and others, as well as spiders and snails.
Unusual breeding system. Breeds in small colonies, where males sing to attract females but do not defend territories. Both males and females are promiscuous; the young in a single nest are often of mixed parentage, and may be fed by more than one male. Nest site is on ground on dry hummock of tundra, among grass clumps or near base of low shrub. Often sunken in shallow depression, but not as well hidden as nests of some longspurs. Nest (built by female) is open cup of grass and sedges, lined with lichens, animal hair, and particularly with feathers (ptarmigan feathers especially favored).
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Tends to migrate late in fall and early in spring; present on wintering areas mostly from November to March. Migrates in flocks.
- 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 CallsDry rattle, like a finger running along the teeth of a comb.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Smith's Longspur
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Smith's Longspur
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.