Nonbreeding birds have a heavily streaked back and crown with a clean nape. In addition to the usual suspects, I was lucky to come across one of my favorite birds: a ground-hugging, sparrow-like critter called the Lapland longspur (“Longspur” because this species sports a very long hind toe, an adaptation to walking on the ground). Feather Vane Length. It is an open cup made from coarse sedge, lined with fine sedge and grass, feathers, or hair. Lapland Longspur - Calcarius lapponicus - Adult - Female Scan ID: 61034 . © Copyright 2017 The Martha's Vineyard Times, Tisbury, Chilmark approve COVID construction regulations, Oak Bluffs wary of reducing restaurant hours, Art and rug sale canceled due to virus spike. Like pipits, horned larks, and snow buntings, Lapland longspurs invariably occur in open habitats. In winter, males and females retain an echo of face pattern but lack the blocks of color, becoming overall pale brown and streaked. Look for them on fallow agricultural fields, often with bare ground or sparse stubble, where they form large flocks along with American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Vesper and Savannah Sparrows. But if you put in your time in the field in late autumn and scrutinize flocks of open-country birds, you may eventually catch up with this unusual visitor from the far north. But when this species visits us in the fall and winter, even the males are much duller, with just hints of that bold head pattern. A look at the bird through binoculars showed a rectangular rusty patch on the wing, a valuable field mark for this species in all plumages. Breeding males have a black hood, rusty nape, and yellow bill. Both nonbreeding sexes have rufous coloration on back. I walked to within about 10 feet of the bird and stood still; nonchalantly, it approached even closer, feeding as it went. Birders who visit the tundra in summer will find Lapland Longspurs very common almost everywhere there, the bright males singing their short warbling songs from hummocks or rocks or while flying. In all plumages, the tail is dark with white outer tail feathers. — Matt Pelikan On Sunday, Nov. 8, I took advantage of ridiculously fine weather for a quick birding and bugging trip to Katama. Lapland Longspurs are busy. Personally, I can only recall seeing longspurs twice previously on the Vineyard, both times solo birds in November, and both, coincidentally, at Katama Farm. Male and female Lapland longspurs stand on the ground. Presumably a good portion of the population meanders south of our latitude during the winter, then heads north on a more direct route toward the breeding grounds, usually bypassing the Island. Perhaps they object to flying over water. Keep your eye out for this visitor from the far north. Females are similar but lack the extensive black. Breeding males have a black crown, face, and bib and a rusty nape. Snow cover often makes the birds easier to find, but scanning large, open fields for any sort of movement on the ground, or waiting for the birds to flush in tight, whirling flocks before resettling, can often be successful. Overall quite compact, with large head and relatively short tail. Winters in open habitats including used agricultural fields, turf farms, and coastal dunes. Some winter flocks of Lapland Longspurs have been estimated to contain 4 million birds. Small sparrowlike bird. Breeding female has rufous back; black wing-tips. During summer, they eat an estimated 3,000 to 10,000 seeds and insects per day, plus feed their nestlings an additional 3,000 insects per day. Longspurs and Snow Buntings(Order: Passeriformes, Family:Calcariidae). Wings relatively long. The oldest recorded Lapland Longspur was at least 5 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased in Alaska. Most of the North American population funnels down during fall migration through the Great Plains, where flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands have been observed. The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. Chunky grassland bird with a stout bill. While they may make it as far south as the Gulf Coast, they generally have the sense to travel no farther than they need to; migrating is perilous and energy-intensive. FEATHER SCAN DATA. The login page will open in a new tab. Description: A Steller's jay perches on a branch. Sings a series of loud, squeaky, jingling notes from low perches near the ground or during flight. For some reason, despite its overall abundance, this bird does not often make it to the Vineyard. So this is not a species I can give you clear instructions on how to find. After logging in you can close it and return to this page. Lapland longspurs are well adapted to life on the tundra. In mild winters, longspurs may hang around for the Christmas Bird Count, and even into January or February; spring sightings occur regularly in Massachusetts, but are decidedly unusual on the Island. The species shows a clear seasonal pattern here, with most records coming from late fall or early winter. Feather Metadata. Their name refers to the Lapland region of Scandinavia, which is partly in Sweden and partly in Finland. The bird was on the dirt track that runs across the main pasture at Katama Farm, where it was feeding on grass seeds. Of the four species of longspurs that can be found in North America, the Lapland Longspur is the only one that can be found outside of North America. Once eggs are laid, incubation proceeds quickly by songbird standards, and the young, once hatched, mature enough to leave the nest in only about 10 days. Not unusual for this species, the bird was amazingly tame, far more interested in stripping seeds off crabgrass stalks than in paying attention to me. Feather Total Length. While pure longspur flocks do occur here, much more typical is finding a longspur or two mixed in with a flock of one of those other open-land species. The deep black masks and chestnut napes of the males, only slightly more subdued in females, make the Lapland Longspur difficult to mistake for any other species—a far cry from their nondescript winter garb.

If I were a longspur, heading south to a region with snow-free real estate would be the priority, or at least with shallow enough snow so windswept spots are blown clear; these are seed-eating birds, and bare ground surely makes foraging much easier. Flushed birds often fly quite high and settle far from their original position. Lapland longspurs are less common in New England, though they’re a regular fall and winter feature on shorelines and pastures. The name “longspur” refers to the unusually long hind claw on this species and others in its genus. Note rusty patch in the wings. Nonbreeding birds are streaked above with a black border around the ear, streaked flanks, and a dark often smudgy breast band. The Lapland Longspur with which most birders in North America are familiar is a small, streaky thing, but during the breeding season they are spectacular. Nonbreeding birds have warm brown patches on cheeks, crown, sides of neck. Breeds in arctic tundra. And my bird was drabber still, a first-year female bird that I nearly dismissed as a boring ol’ sparrow.

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