Chestnut-Collared Longspur

Calcarius ornatus
Range Map

Another iconic member of North America’s prairies is the Chestnut-Collared Longspur. Their population has crashed dramatically in recent decades. Science estimates an 87% decline since the 1960s. The reasons given for the decline probably coincide with other prairie specialists, such as the Sprague’s Pipit

Historically, these birds looked for heavily grazed or burned ranges to raise the next generation. In winter, these birds fly south to stay in the short grass prairies and desert grasslands of the American Southwest and the Mexican Plateau. 

Today, taxonomists regard them as monotypic (no subspecies).

I met my first Chestnut-Collared Longspurs while visiting Canada’s Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan in 2022. I found them in a mix of short and tall grasses, where the highest perches were a few scattered boulders perhaps two feet tall. Their stunning colors contrasted dramatically with the summer grasses where they dwelled.

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