Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) are down for the Winter.  They are here in the thousands, hundreds of thousands, bouncing around in huge flocks, landing in fields to eat, at sloughs for a drink of water and quickly rising up, and flying on a little farther.  Click on photo to enlarge - these birds have fun flying.

 Here's a lazy one (and the only one) who didn't fly up before I could get my camera focused.  This bird is in non-breeding plumage.  Lapland Longspurs molt only once a year, in the Fall; the males and females look alike at this stage.

In the Spring, the males look like this, and they perch at the tips of long grass stalks to sing and show off.  (Photo from Wiki)

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology, North American Birds On-Line

One of the most abundant terrestrial birds wintering in northern North America, the Lapland Longspur breeds across vast areas of the Arctic, where it is almost invariably the most visible and abundant bird and sometimes the only nesting songbird. In winter, it is generally uncommon in eastern North America and west of the Rocky Mountains, but huge numbers can be found west of the Great Lakes and across the Great Plains from southern Canada to northern Texas, often feeding on waste grain in agricultural fields; some flocks have been estimated as large as 4 million birds. Such flocks are sometimes victims of mass destruction at lighted structures when their nocturnal migrations and winter wanderings coincide with snowstorms and poor visibility.
This species is known as the Lapland Bunting in Britain. The North American name “longspur” refers to the unusually long claw on the hind toe of this and other species in the genus Calcarius . The other 3 species in the genus are confined to North America, whereas the Lapland Longspur occupies an extensive Holarctic range, breeding across northern Eurasia.

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