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McCown's Longspur

Calcarius mccownii

Length: 6 inches Wingspan: 10 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Strong black and white tail pattern, bigger bill than other longspurs, plainer in summer than other longspurs.

McCown's Longspur - Calcarius mccowniiMcCown's Longspurs are birds of dry shortgrass prairies of the western Great Plains.  They often prefer areas with little or no vegetation.  Males can be easily found in the summer as they perform their parachuting flight songs.  The primary breedingrange of McCown's Longspurs is in states to the west of South Dakota.

Habitat: Breeds in shortgrass prairie, often in very poor and dry land with patches of open ground.  In winter and in migration, found in open habitats including shortgrass prairie and barren agricultural fields.

Diet: Seeds make up a large portion of the diet in all seasons, especially in the winter.  Also feeds on insects and spiders in the summer months.

Behavior: Does nearly all its foraging by walking or running along the ground, although they will occasionally fly up to capture flying insects in flight.  Gregarious, usually foraging in flocks except while nesting.

Breeding: Rare breeder in western South Dakota.

Song: Short melodic warbling.

Migration: Summers in the northwestern Great Plains.  Winters in the southern Great Plains and the Southwest.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of McCown's Longspur sightings

Similar Species: Chestnut-collared Longspur

Conservation Status: Numbers and range are greatly below historical levels due to loss of shortgrass prairie habitat.  However, numbers are generally stable today.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, McCown's Longspur

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - McCown's Longspur"

3) McCown's Longspur

Photo Information: Photo courtesy of Doug Backlund


Click on the map below for higher-resolution views
McCown's Longspur - Calcarius mccownii
South Dakota Status: Casual migrant in the western part of the state.  Rare summer breeder in the extreme west.

Additional McCown's Longspur Photos (Coming Soon)