McCown’s Longspur
Calcarius mccownii

McCowns Longspur

The McCown’s Longspur is a sparrow-sized bird which is easy to spot with its thick bill and its very distinctive inverted black “T” pattern on its white tail. They are gray with brownish-gray wings. Males have a chestnut patch on thier wing feathers and a very distinct black breast patch.

McCown’s Lonspurs favour open, arid grassland with dry, sandy soils, low litter accumulations and low-growing, sparse vegetation with patches of bare ground. They are particularly associated with areas that have patches of bare ground due to disturbances such as fire. They have been found nesting in a variety of habitats, including cropland. McCown’s Longspusr are ground nesting birds that construct their nests in shallow depressions in the ground dominated by blue grama or buffalo grass. They often have three to four eggs in one clutch and the chicks hatch after 12 days of incubation.

McCown’s Longspur are migratory birds and often leave Canada by the end of September. They spend the winter in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico and return to Canada in early April. During the winter and migration McCown’s Longspurs are mostly seed-eaters; however during the breeding season they eat both seeds and insects, with grasshoppers being a particular favorite.

In 2006 the McCown’s Longspur was designated “special concern” under the Species at Risk Act due to its decreasing habitat. Populations in Canada are reported to have decreased 98% since the late 1960s.

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